As a licensed, oncology-focused esthetician, Geralyn O’Brien has provided participants at Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center with skin care classes, personal consultations and oncology-focused facials. And now she has won $10,000 for Waterford Place by entering – and winning – the Compassion category of the Skin Games 2020, an international competition for estheticians.
Knowing how much her services benefit participants, she entered the competition hoping to win money for Waterford Place, a not-for-profit which provides education, wellness and support programs free of charge to anyone impacted by a cancer diagnosis. She also wanted to help raise awareness about the need for oncology-safe skin treatments for cancer patients.
Looking back, Geralyn recalls she was initially hesitant to answer the competition. The three-time cancer survivor, who became an esthetician for the cancer community as a way to give back, says, “I knew my passion was there for what I do at Waterford but I wasn’t sure I could go so far out of my comfort zone to enter an international competition.”
However, she was motivated by her concern for her clients and the fact that there are no salons or spas in the area promoting oncology-safe treatments. Most estheticians do not have the knowledge or specialized training to provide safe treatment to cancer patients, and several of her clients had received gift cards to spas in the area only to be refused treatment because of their stage 4 cancer.
Determined to Do More
One day, after completing four facials at Waterford Place, she was feeling helpless she couldn’t do more. “Three of my clients were battling stage 4 cancers and mentioned there was a two-month wait for appointments,” she said. She drove home determined to enter the Skin Games. “I figured even if I didn’t win, I would help bring more awareness to those in my industry about the importance of becoming oncology trained so no cancer patient is ever refused services.”
To enter the competition, Geralyn created a five-minute video and wrote an essay about using her esthetician skills for a nonprofit. Later, as a finalist, she faced an interview with six judges and had 20 minutes to answer their questions.
Watching the live awards show virtually from her home, Geralyn says she could not stop crying when she heard her name announced as first place winner. “My phone started ringing with texts and emails and the next couple of hours were spent in shock,” she recalls. In addition to taking first place in the Compassion category, she finished fifth place in the People’s Choice category.
Grateful for Support
She is grateful to her family and friends for their ongoing support and to everyone involved in making the video, especially the Waterford participants who appeared in it. She is also grateful to the skin care companies that support her with donated or discounted products for her classes as Waterford Place. “I couldn’t do what I do without their generous support,” she says. “And I am so grateful to Skin Games for creating this category to help these great not for-profits.”
Representing Waterford Place, Rush Copley Foundation vice president Alex Pope told Geralyn, “This is so amazing and wonderful – and so are you! Congratulations and thank you so much for doing this on behalf of Waterford Place. We are so fortunate to have you as a friend.”