Black Mountain salon raises money for Tate Brown

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Left to right: Hannah Quinn, Mary Jane Banks, Sparrow Salon owner April Tweed, Mindy Stafford and Debbie Leon participated in a cut-a-thon on Feb. 18, raising money for local man Tate Brown.

A benefit on Feb. 18, at a local business raised money for a Swannanoa Valley man battling cancer.

Sparrow Salon in Black Mountain hosted a cut-a-thon that raised over $1,000 for Tate Brown, a 21-year-old who was diagnosed was stage 3 testicular cancer on New Year’s Day.

“I've known Tate's parents pretty much my entire life," said April Tweed, who has owned the salon for a little over five years. "Tate is only a couple years older than my daughter."

When Tweed learned of Brown's diagnosis, she felt the need to act. 

"It was one of those things where I immediately thought 'he's just a baby, he's only 21,'" she said. "I have a son who is almost 15 and a daughter who is 19, and the mother in me thought 'this could be my child.'"

It was easy for Tweed to imagine just what kinds of issues a family may have to face in a situation like Brown's.

"It's already something no parent wants to face, but I started to think about how expensive things could get and how much time his parents were spending at the hospital and how much work they were probably having to miss," she said. "Then you think about medical bills and just how fast things start to add up. I started to think 'what could I do to help?'"

April Tweed cuts a ponytail off of Ashley Bartlett, Tate Brown's aunt. Bartlett donated five 12-inch ponytails to Wigs for Kids, which provides hair replacement systems for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Offering the services that would normally be offered at the salon on a day when it is typically closed gave Tweed and stylists Hannah Quinn, Mary Jane Banks, Mindy Stafford and Debbie Leon a chance to help the Brown family. 

“I hopped into the group chat with the workers at the salon and brought up this idea and told them they were more than welcome to participate in the wanted to," Tweed said. "Within 30 seconds they all responded 'I'm in.'"

Quinn was a former classmate of Brown's at Owen High School and Banks is a native of the Swannanoa Valley. 

"Mindy grew up here and Debbie has lived here a long time," Tweed said. "Most of us are moms and I think we all just wanted to help out the best we could."

The initial goal was for each stylist to take four appointments, at $25 per person that day but those slots filled up quickly, according to Tweed. 

"We were thinking each of us could raise $100," she said. "As soon as the appointments filled up we expanded the hours that day a little to try to get walk-ins too."

Twenty-five people participated in the cut-a-thon, and others walked in and donated money without getting a haircut. Tweed found a way to raise more money, approaching local businesses to donate items that could be included in baskets and raffled off. 

"There were really nice things donated for the baskets, each one is over $1,000 in value," she said. "We have two of them and one of them has a really nice Vera Bradley bag and the KOA in Swannanoa donated a $150 gift card that could be used at any of their locations."

Several other local businesses chipped in as well for the raffle, which will be open through Feb. 28. Tweed was planning to host a drawing on Facebook Live on March 1. 

"There was a very energized vibe in the shop that day," she said. "Tate's aunt Ashley (Bartlett) had really long hair and she ended up donating five 12-inch ponytails to Wigs for Kids."

Brown himself was unable to attend the event, due to a compromised immune system from the treatment he is currently undergoing. He has been overwhelmed by the support of the community so far, he said. 

"In the best way too," he said. "I read all of the posts and messages on social media and the love that everyone has shown me has been amazing."

Brown began undergoing treatment for the cancer, which he described as "very aggressive," in January. Since then, he's been trying to build his strength. 

"I feel great," he said. "I'm gaining weight back, but I'm still weak from being paralyzed and on life support for four days, but it's coming back slowly."

As he prepared to enter another round of treatment on Feb. 25, Brown said he's grateful for the support from Tweed and everyone else at Sparrow Salon.

"I never knew how willing people are to help when someone in the community is going through a hard time," he said. "I just want everyone to know how much I appreciate it and I feel like I'm healing well."