Hair salon owner looks to raise domestic violence awareness with second annual cut-a-thon event
By Melissa Komar
Working for several years as a hair stylist at Shampoo Bar in Port Richmond, Erin “Ellie” O’Neill was no stranger to cut-a-thons, charity events hosted by the hair salon to raise money for special causes.
But in 2015, one issue hit close to home: domestic violence.
The Bridesburg resident’s aunt, Robin Brown, 51, was killed in a domestic-fueled murder-suicide by her boyfriend in October 2015.
O’Neill and her immediate family had only met Brown’s boyfriend once the same year and never suspected anything was amiss in their relationship.
“We thought he was such a nice guy. He was so friendly and so welcoming. He was very nice,” she said.
After the death of her aunt, O’Neill made it her personal mission “to help these women in any way possible.”
When O’Neill opened her own salon, Bombshell, in April 2016, hosting a cut-a-thon for domestic violence was one of her first orders of business.
One of her hair stylist’s aunts works at a local shelter for women, and in August 2016, O’Neill and her staff at Bombshell hosted the first cut-a-thon and raised $2,500 for the shelter.
The shelter, which wishes to remain anonymous to protect the victims’ identities, helps “rehabilitate” women victims of domestic violence.
The salon also collects toiletries and food for the shelter, and O’Neill gives the shelter director gift cards to the salon.
“I didn’t want them to be broadcasted at the cut-a-thon, I just want them to be able to come in and get a haircut and feel good,” she said. “So, they can come in on a later date and get their hair cut.”
This year, 11 stylists and barbers will donate their time and tips.
Family and friends volunteer at the event, too.
Although the inspiration behind the fundraiser stems from O’Neill’s personal experience, it’s all hands on deck to organize it.
“It’s definitely a group effort from the staff at Bombshell,” she said. “My girls really work hard to get all the donations for baskets.”
Stylists partner with local businesses to make baskets for raffles, and t-shirts are sold the day of the event.
This year’s cut-a-thon raffles range from Philadelphia sports tickets, to movie tickets, to gift cards to local businesses including Byrne’s Tavern, Bonk’s Bar, Debbie’s Place, Hinge Café, Mercer Café, Shoprite of Aramingo, PJP, Applebee’s and Riverwards Café.
All proceeds go directly to the shelter.
O’Neill hopes to raise at least $5,000 this year, but raising awareness is the most important.
“My aunt was killed and I just can’t ignore it,” O’Neill said. “We just try to promote, ‘Silence hides violence,’ and to speak up and not to be afraid. My ultimate goal is awareness. I know there are so many women in abusive relationships and they are afraid to leave. I just want them to know it’s OK for them to leave.”
The Bombshell Hair Studio, 3421 Richmond St., 2nd annual Cut A Thon will take place on Sunday, Aug. 27, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cuts cost $5 for kids, $10 for teens and $15 for adults. For appointments, call 215–454–6604.