‘Hair of the Dog’ proceeds go toward Champaign County Humane Society

By Saher Khan

Fawn-colored Simon is a 5-year-old French Bulldog that his owner, Neil Culpepper, says is more popular downtown than him. Simon is more than just a pet; he is Culpepper’s best friend and a huge motivator behind Culpepper’s upcoming charitable endeavor.

Community hair designers will unite for a charity benefit at downtown Champaign’s Indi Go Artist Co-Op on Saturday from 4-8 p.m. Neil Culpepper, hair designer and owner of Hello Gorgeous Salon, put together the benefit, which is called “Hair of the Dog.” Culpepper, a dog owner and self-proclaimed animal lover, as well as 10 other hairstylists will give haircuts in exchange for a $20 donation. All proceeds will go to the Champaign County Humane Society.

Because shampoo bowls will not be present at the event, haircut styles will be limited and will be generally catered toward men, Culpepper said. Because of this, hairdressers will be using spray bottles and predominantly doing trims. Those who do not want to get a haircut but still want to support the cause can come by the Co-Op, give a donation and enjoy wine and entertainment. DJ Tim Williams will perform at the event, and Miss Illinois International 2013, Season Winesburg, will be in attendance. Local sponsors will hand out raffle prizes and sell T-shirts as well.

Culpepper, the organizer of the benefit, was inspired after spending many years in St. Louis participating in a similar benefit event. His salon in St. Louis, the Jon Tomas Salon, collaborated with a fraternity at Washington University in St. Louis. He would do haircuts for four hours, with the proceeds going toward charity of the fraternity’s choice. Culpepper, who is originally from Champaign, moved back to town in 2004 and decided he wanted to organize a similar event.

“I was thinking about it for a few years, and finally, (this past September), I saw a posting of an abandoned dog that needed a home in my Facebook feed. When I saw that, that’s when I was like, ‘… it’s about time I do something,’” he said.

The day after viewing the Facebook post, Culpepper reached out to his hairdresser friends in the community and told them about his idea. Shortly after, he called the Indi Go Artist Co-Op and booked the venue for the event.

“I put the word out and I only wanted about 10 people so we didn’t overcrowd the venue, but people were still responding saying they wanted to do it long after I had my 10,” Culpepper said. “So, next year we’re going to have to get a bigger venue.”

Tobi Rice, hair stylist at Cost Cutters in Champaign, and one of the volunteer hairdressers for Saturday’s event, said that he’s never done anything like this before, but loves the idea of it.

“I know Neil has a dog, and I have animals myself,” Rice said. “We do a lot for the people (as stylists), but how often do people get to do stuff for their dogs?”

Megan Wolf, development director of the Champaign County Humane Society, said there was no hesitation on the Humane Society’s part in saying yes when Culpepper approached them with the idea for the event.

“We are fortunate in that we have a lot of people in the community who do great benefit events,” she said. “So when Neil Culpepper called and asked if we were interested in something like this, we said absolutely.”

Wolf pointed out that there are difficulties and costs when planning a benefit event. She said the Humane Society is grateful that Culpepper took care of the planning process.

“He’s a huge animal person, and loves his dogs and has taken care of everything, and it’s been a great honor,” Wolf said.

The Humane Society’s main mission is to “instill respect, kindness, and compassion for animals as community values,” according to the organization’s mission statement. The Champaign shelter has a veterinarian on staff who can treat animals, as well as humane investigators who intervene in animal cruelty cases when needed.

“I want this to help make people more aware of the situation (of animal abandonment and mistreatment), and that the Humane Society is there,” Culpepper said. “Dogs are like people, too, basically, (and) they have feelings and they need help, and this is a little thing we can do to help them.”

Culpepper plans on making this an annual event.

Saher can be reached at [email protected]