WASHINGTON — Tina Propst, stylist at That Perfect Look Salon, found out on the first of the month that she had received the Sunshine Award for being the top volunteer in Illinois. Propst won the award for her volunteer work as the Look Good Feel Better Area Trainer for Central Illinois.

The day Propst received the award, her husband was first in the door at That Perfect Look Salon, carrying flowers.

“When they awarded me, they ambushed me,” Propst said. “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve experienced in a long time.”

Propst has been a hair stylist at That Perfect Look for eight years. About six years ago, a friend asked her to come to a Look Good Feel Better Cancer Care workshop for cancer patients. It was at that workshop that she recognized Judi Yocum, an instructor at the Oehrlein Cosmetology School in East Peoria. Propst graduated from the school and later became an instructor.

Propst felt that God was leading her to lend her services. From there she got involved with the Look Good Feel Better Cancer Care classes at the Cancer Center in Peoria.

“I’ve loved every moment of it ever since,” she said.

Look Good Feel Better is sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The endeavor takes Propst to other locations such as Champaign, Bloomington or Moline, or Iowa where she trains other volunteers and conducts the cancer workshop in places where they don’t have a volunteer to do so. Propst does her volunteer work in addition to her part-time job at That Perfect Look, located at 105 Washington Square.

Propst teaches a two-hour class to cancer patients on how to care for their hair, nails, and skin while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. She teaches them about things they need to avoid as well as the things that a cancer patient will need to be more concerned about. The workshop also goes over wigs, head coverings, different types of scarves and how to tie them.

Propst said that she has learned as many things from the cancer patients as they have learned from her. She has incorporated what she learned from them into her workshops. This further helps other cancer patients. One example of this draws from information Propst learned years ago. She had a cancer patient that told a story about awoman with long hair who, after losing her hair learned to tie a head scarf in such a way that it hung down in the back, restoring her feeling of hair. Propst said she's shared that story at workshops, and was able to teach the scarf tying technique.

“When someone has really long hair, they become attached to it, almost like it’s a limb,” Propst said. “If you can give them tips that give back that feeling a little bit, it can boost their self-esteem.”

Propst said her time with cancer patients is a blessing all around.

“I absolutely love the women I meet and being able to help them. It’s amazing,” she said. “We just have a good time.”

Propst also said she tries to make the workshops fun for the patients.

“It’s very lighthearted,” she said.

Propst sees the Look Good Feel Better program as an enriching opportunity for those undergoing cancer treatment. She pointed out that not every cancer patient will go through the same experience. Some will lose hair, have split nails and others will not. Propst can adjust the workshop according to the needs of each audience.

“They get so much from the workshops,” Propst said. “I think it’s so important to new cancer patients.”

For new educators Propst teaches a four-hour class to volunteers.

Her years of volunteer work began to catch the attention of others. Propst knew she had been nominated for the Sunshine Award several months ago. She was aware that it was statewide so she put the nomination on the back burner for a couple of months. When she learned she had been awarded the honor, it came as a surprise.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Winning the Sunshine Award circles back to Propst's love for the program and making it well-known.

“I just can’t speak enough about it,” she said. “I hope we can spread more awareness and get more volunteers and patients involved.”

Lee Saathoff, of Merle Norman & That Perfect Look Salon, noted Propst’s heart for the program and for other people.

“She is a very giving, loving person and has a great servant’s heart,” Saathoff said.

For more information about the Look Good Feel Better workshop at the Cancer Center, contact LookGoodFeelBetter.org.