Dennis Mitchell of “Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop” (2496 Frederick Douglass Blvd, between 133rd and 134th Sts.) started Cutting for a Cure, a non- profit community-driven organization with the goal of improving the health of underserved communities around the US by providing health education and free health screenings. The Cutting for a Cure Marathon brings barbers together for a 48-hour hair cutting marathon to raise awareness about common diseases and screenings for many health conditions.
Q. What inspired you to start Cutting for a Cure?
A. It all started with the idea of a hair cutting marathon. I always wanted do a certain amount of haircuts in a certain amount of time, but I thought that it just wasn’t enough to do a marathon. Around the time I was going to do it, my father was battling with pancreatic cancer. So for that first marathon, I decided have the American Cancer Society partner with us, and from there having a haircutting marathon combined with health awareness snowballed and just became a big thing in my life. A lot of people asked me why I chose to focus on cancer, and I told them I didn’t choose it, cancer chose me. After that, I started learning more about other diseases that affected the Harlem community, and found out that many of them are preventable. Before I made Cutting for a Cure into a non-profit organization several years ago, all the proceeds went to different organizations like the American Cancer Society. Now, with our new non-profit status we can accept donations so all the proceeds from the Cutting for a Cure Marathon are used to support our efforts to promote early detection and prevention of various diseases.
Q. Can you tell us about your annual Cutting for a Cure Marathon?
A. During the Cutting for a Cure Marathon, twelve barbers come from all over the US to cut hair at Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop for 48 hours straight – non-stop, no sleeping, no nothing. This year, we have barbers coming in from everywhere – the Bronx, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Barbados. The theme for this year is to salute First Responders (military, police, fire department, etc.) both active and retired.
Everybody says you should do the hair cutting marathon in shifts, but I say no because it’s about going hard. Cancer goes hard. Diabetes goes hard. So, I want to make a statement that Cutting for a Cure is going to go hard. Denny Moe’s is going to go hard to combat and stomp out a lot of these illnesses that plague our community. A lot of people come out and get screened during this event, and we usually screen about 200 men over the age of 45 for prostrate and colon cancer and about 500 individuals for hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. This year, we will have 13 different types of health screenings, including ones for prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and cholesterol.
Q. How do you think Cutting for a Cure gets people to pay attention to the health issues in Harlem?
A. Normally, people don’t want to go to the doctor. What Cutting for a Cure does is basically brings the health information to them. We set up a system where people can come and get tested for the basic things. Our slogan sums it up – “Don’t wait until you get it, act like you have it.”