A newsmaker you should know: Her Hair Peace nonprofit continues to grow

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If you've ever called Hair Peace Charities, you may have recognized the voice at the other end of the line.

Since 2005, hundreds of women with breast cancer and their families in southwestern Pennsylvania have called the local nonprofit for help purchasing a wig.

Bonny Diver-Hall, the nonprofit's director, is also a KDKA NewsRadio traffic reporter, and she has pledged to personally talk to every person who calls from a 412 or 724 area code.

"If that's where you live, we can help you out," she said.

Interest in Hair Peace is growing, Ms. Diver-Hall said. Calls have doubled almost every year, and since its inception the nonprofit has helped nearly 500 women who have lost their hair during chemotherapy treatment buy a wig.

Ms. Diver-Hall, 55, of Avalon, found out she had Stage 2 breast cancer in 2003 when she went to the doctor for a broken shoulder. An earlier mammogram hadn't detected the malignant tumor. In June of that year, the tumor was removed. By January 2004, she had stopped the majority of treatment and was cancer-free.

Along the way, she talked about her fight on the air and listeners asked her to speak at events and fundraisers.

She also discovered that insurance typically doesn't provide for the purchase of a wig. A quality wig can cost about $300.

Ms. Diver-Hall had found an untapped market. She worked with members of her church, toyed with a few names and settled on Hair Peace to represent her goal to support woman. If a cancer patient's insurance won't cover the cost of a wig, or if it would be a hardship for the family, Hair Peace provides $150 toward the purchase.

"God is the 'Peace' in Hair Peace," she wrote in "Bonny's Message" on the nonprofit's website.

Hair Peace began with $100, and the coffers have never run dry.

"There are good things that we get from cancer," she said. "There's something there if you allow yourself to look."

Ms. Diver-Hall grew up in Ohio and graduated with an education degree, with a concentration in K-12 art. She chose that discipline, she said, because the "correct answer is the answer that's not the same as everyone else's."

She was teaching 400 students five days a week in a rural area outside Columbus, Ohio, when the school board cut funding for art programs in 1983, reducing her schedule to 2 1/2 days.

"I really needed to walk away from that," she said.

So she changed careers, trying her hand at several jobs -- farmhand, bartender and community radio station announcer, where she counted 100 listeners. It was an exciting time because nothing held her down, she said.

Ms. Diver-Hall pursued radio full time and moved from the overnight shift to midday to mornings. In 1992, she moved to Pittsburgh and eventually worked as midday talent at WRRK Channel 97 rock station. She now works as a traffic reporter for KDKA-AM.

Even as Hair Peace grows, Ms. Diver-Hall treasures leisure time with her prized horse, Romeo Brazil, who in a way saved her life; she broke her shoulder -- which led to the detection of her breast cancer -- when she fell off Romeo.

She still rides to reduce stress and stay centered.

"I have these great rides, and I come home and I could die today and ... be a happy woman," she said.

Hair Peace hosts the annual Recipe for Hope, where local celebrities share homemade food to raise money. Upcoming events include Hair Peace/Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community on May 19 at Heinz Field.

For more information: hairpeace.org or 412-327-5177.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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