Cozmo styles for a cause: Cosmetology students cut hair to benefit teacher stricken with cancer

What a great event! The following article was first published on naplesnews.com.

"BONITA SPRINGS — Unfortunately, the guest of honor couldn’t attend.

Students at Cozmo, the Bonita Springs beauty school, held a fundraiser June 17 and 18 to raise money for instructor Robb Gardner.

The cosmetology teacher was forced to leave his position at the school after being diagnosed with stage-four melanoma, and could not make the trip from his home in Naples to be a part of the outpouring of support and affection from the student body.

"It was very sweet of them to do," said Gardner when reached at home by phone. "We have a great group of kids there, some real go-getters. Angels do walk on earth."

The school donated the proceeds from all salon services performed on those two days to help Gardner — who the students affectionately refer to as "Mr. Robb"— pay the heavy expenses associated with his illness.

"We love Mr. Robb, that’s the main reason we wanted to help," said student Jenny Coulman, one of the principal organizers of the fundraiser.

"He’s been here for all of us. If he uses the money to pay his medical bills or if he wants to go to Jamaica, that’s fine."

Gardner was an instructor at Cozmo the School until the beginning of June, when his deteriorating health

forced him to give up his position at the school.

A hairdresser for 27 years, Gardner has worked in San Fransisco, New York and Chicago. He spent the last 10 years in Naples, where he cut hair at Robert of Philadelphia before making the jump to teaching a year ago.

"I decided to go from behind the chair to giving my experience to the next generation of stylists," said Gardner.

He taught advanced phase two courses at Cozmo the School, including anatomy, skin and hair diseases, as well as hairstyling and chemical relaxing.

But while staff at Cozmo does have health insurance, salon coordinator Sandie Diringer said they are individual policies with very high deductibles.

"A major health issue is a lot of money out of pocket," she said.

In Gardner’s case, it was a major health issue indeed.

From what started as just a bump on his face, the cancer has spread into his brain, liver and bloodstream.

"I thought I had an ingrown hair on my chin, so I lanced it. But it bled for three or four hours," said Gardner. "I would like to tell everyone, check your husband, check your wife, check your father, your mother and your kids. If you see anything, get it checked out."

On both fundraising days, Cozmo hummed with activity.

Dozens of young ladies milled around, taking classes, cutting and styling the customers’ hair, or working on each other when there were no paying clients.

Many of the students showed wild streaks in their hair, magentas, greens and blues, colors not seen in nature— at least on hair.

"That’s quite common. They are very experimental," said Cozmo’s director of education Wade Bronstin. "They go through the whole gamut, with different hair colorings and cuts."

The school offers discounted haircuts and styling to the public to help their students learn, with prices ranging from $8 for a child’s haircut, $50 for a full foil and $45 for color, cut and style, start to finish.

On average students at the school perform about 200 different salon services, including manicures, pedicures, and facials along with hair procedures during Fridays and Saturdays.

In addition, students held a carwash on June 18 behind the school at the corner of Bonita Beach Road and Old U.S. 41.

Groups of students in Cozmo T-shirts soaped up and hosed off cars, while more stood along the main road waving signs.

"I think it’s the girls in the bikinis bringing the customers in," said student Maggie Ward.

Students also sold hotdogs, snacks and sodas at the two-day event.

"People are very giving. One guy came in, just gave $100, and didn’t want anything," Coulman said.

On Thursday the school confirmed it had collected $5,000 for "Mr. Robb."

"We all wanted to show him our support, and show him that we had his back," Diringer said."