Be More Awards: Narrative for Face in the Mirror Foundation

Submitting for Be More… Brilliant

Face in the Mirror Foundation was founded in 2004 by Barbara MacLean in honor of her sister, Charlotte Mae McCracken, who lost her battle to breast cancer. During the final days of Charlotte’s life, Barbara wanted so desperately to lift her sister’s spirit and help her feel whole again, so she convinced Charlotte to let her apply makeup and comb her hair. A gentle application of powder and blush combined with a touch of eye shadow and some lipstick transformed a new woman. No longer was Charlotte pale and tired, she was happy, rejuvenated and was smiling. It was then that Charlotte asked Barbara to make a promise that she would help others the same way she had helped her to feel good by enhancing outward beauty to aid in the healing process.

As opposed to traditional or modern medicine, the approach used by Face in the Mirror could be considered innovative for several reasons. The organization’s mission is: To encourage and promote the psychological and outer well-being of cancer patients to overcome their personal battle by realizing that when we look better we feel better, and when we feel better the healing process begins. Instead of treating patients with medication, chemotherapy or radiation, Face in the Mirror volunteers focus on healing patients from the outside, by improving their emotional health. Volunteers provide free makeovers, cleansing facials, scalp and arm massages to patients battling cancer at Valley hospitals. They also offer chemical-free cosmetics, lotion, an inspiring CD of music, and leave a wig if requested.

“Our goal is to use the powerful sense of touch to create a calming environment for patients who may have lost hope,” said Barbara MacLean, founder. “Not only do we apply makeup and offer facials, but we show patients that they are still the person they have always been, and it is the same face in the mirror looking back at them – this time with some color on their cheeks and a sparkle in their eye.”

Currently there is not an organization in the country that offers a program similar to Face in the Mirror. Once volunteers began seeing patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, the need to grow was immediately evident. Today more than 45 Face in the Mirror volunteers visit cancer patients at four Valley hospitals, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Banner Desert Medical Center, and through a program “All About Us Kids!” at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. In addition, the organization partners with Hospice of the Valley. There are plans in place to launch programs in Chicago, Ill., Minneapolis, Minn., Salt Lake City, UT, and Elkton, Md.

The three objectives and overall goals of Face in the Mirror are

  1. Encourage and promote the psychological and outer-well being of cancer patients
  2. Help patients overcome the challenges of their disease by increasing appearance, boosting energy and lifting spirits
  3. Grow to implement the program across the country and internationally by recruiting and retaining volunteers

The program was implemented as a grass roots effort that took two years of laying ground work prior to establishing a 501 (c) (3) organization. In the beginning, Barbara MacLean and one volunteer sorted through donated cosmetics and assembled bags for cancer patients out of her garage. With help from a national cosmetic company, Arbonne International, and other generous donors, the program grew. Face in the Mirror approached other hospitals in the Valley who quickly came on board with the program and supported the mission. Face in the Mirror regularly receives phone calls and letters of request for their services from medical centers and hospitals throughout the U.S.

The only true way to measure the success of the program is through patient and caregiver testimonials. The work of Face in the Mirror is solely dependent on the need. Until there is a cure for cancer, the purpose of the organization and the mission continues. In 2008, volunteers visited more than 1,000 patients.

One patient’s reaction was simple, “Wow. I feel human again.” Another shared, “You have given me hope.”

Hospital nurses and clinical staff have fully embraced the program. A nurse in the oncology unit at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center says, “It has been such an extreme joy to witness the effects Face in the Mirror has on our female patients diagnosed with cancer. They take on patients with dim, gloom and often depressed, complex states of life. And with makeup, time, essential touch and care…the transformation begins. I see them brighten up and know their spirits are raised.”

The organization has recently launched a new website (www.faceinthemirror.org) so they can serve as a resource to patients, and can recruit volunteers. The only way for continued growth is by generating awareness to increase the organization’s volunteer base, and through generous financial contributions to purchase more products. Sadly, the need is still immense for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children throughout the world who continue to fight their battle each day.

There isn’t a day that goes by that Barbara MacLean doesn’t think of her sister, Charlotte.

For the reasons explained in this narrative, we hope you will consider Face in the Mirror Foundation for the Be More…Brilliant award.