Columbus, OH,
16:40 PM

Columbus Dispatch: Howard Varner is an "Everyday Hero"

Imagine you are a cancer patient and you’re going through chemotherapy treatments. Your hair is starting to fall out and you realize the time has come to shave your head. For many, this can be a stressful experience and the question arises: “Do I shave it at home and associate this memory with somewhere in my house or do I go to a hairdresser, a place where I usually leave feeling confident and beautiful, and suddenly emerge hair-free?” Because of a man named Howard Varner, patients don’t have to make that decision anymore.

For the last five years, Howard, a retired barber, shaves the heads of patients at the Over My Head boutique at the OhioHealth Bing Cancer Center. He does it with a reassuring word and a calm demeanor. He even makes it fun if the patient is up for it. On one recent occasion, he shaved a patient’s hair into a Mohawk mid-way through her appointment, because she always wondered what she would look like with one.

Howard gets it. He and his wife are both two-time cancer survivors. He knows this can be a stressful appointment for some. He tries his best to make them feel comfortable with small talk and reassurance about what they are going through.

In many cases, after patients receive their haircut, they get their new wig fitted and styled by Over My Head. In a recent interview with The Columbus Dispatch, Howard told reporter Ken Gordon about one of his most memorable appointments, an 11-year-old girl who had her head shaved and then received her new wig. She said, `I’ll be the prettiest girl in school,’” Warner told Gordon, while tearing up. “I mean, you see these kids. . . .”

For his work at Over My Head and with other central Ohio organizations, Howard has been named one of five finalists for the “Everyday Heroes” award, which, according to the Dispatch, “showcases central Ohio residents who quietly work to heal, unite and improve our communities.”

Congratulations, and thank you, Howard!

To learn more about Over My Head boutique, click here.

To learn more about the OhioHealth Bing Cancer Center, click here.

Click on the Dispatch logo above to read Gordon's story on Howard.