Silhouettes for Survivors

Hometown Heroes, Odd Jobs, People
on September 27, 2011
Dave Fulp Cindi Harwood Rose holds a paper silhouette created for Eden Rockwell.

Eden Rockwell, 4, perches on a chair and stares straight ahead as artist Cindi Harwood Rose creates a silhouette of the child's face with surgical scissors and a blank sheet of black paper.

For a $40 donation to her Rose Ribbon Foundation, the Houston, Texas, woman clips Eden's paper profile in 40 seconds and, in the process, helps fund reconstructive surgery for uninsured breast cancer survivors.

Eden's mother, Allison, 34, of nearby Pearland (pop. 37,640), marvels at the silhouette's striking resemblance to her daughter, complete with eyelashes, curls and hair ribbon.

"A good silhouette should be more than a shadow," says Rose, 61, while snipping facial profiles during a benefit last October at Bering's store in Houston. "It should capture the person's personality."

Rose has created hundreds of thousands of paper profiles, including those of Elvis Presley and Queen Elizabeth, since landing her first job at age 16 as a silhouette artist at AstroWorld amusement park in Houston.

Just as impressive as her instant portraits is Rose's concern for others. In 2005, she founded the Rose Ribbon Foundation with her husband, Dr. Franklin Rose, a plastic surgeon, to provide free reconstructive surgery to uninsured breast cancer survivors. Her silhouettes have raised more than $200,000 for the charity.

"I realized that I could make a difference in the world by giving people hope, goals and wellness," she says.

She created the foundation to honor her sister, Holly Harwood Skolkin, 58, of Houston, who was diagnosed in 1997 with advanced-stage breast cancer. Since Skolkin's cancer had spread, she did not undergo a mastectomy, but her longing for a life of "normalcy" touched her sister's heart.

That desire to feel and look normal is shared by breast-cancer survivor Pat McCaffety, 56, of Hempstead, Texas (pop. 4,691). For three years, she lived with scars from a double mastectomy.

"It was a daily reminder that I had cancer," McCaffety says. "I was very self-conscious."

McCaffety didn't have medical insurance and never imagined that she could afford reconstructive breast surgery. Then a friend suggested she contact the Rose Ribbon Foundation. In May 2010, McCaffety underwent reconstructive surgery, and it didn't cost her a penny.

"I still can't believe this has happened until I look in the mirror," McCaffety says as she wipes away tears. When she harvested her garden last year, she filled a big basket with squash, tomatoes and bell peppers for the Roses.

McCaffety is one of 80 patients to benefit from free surgeries provided by the Rose Ribbon Foundation. Reconstruction often requires multiple surgeries and can cost from $70,000 to $100,000, says Dr. Rose, 58, who donates his time and skills to the foundation.

"Ours is a profession of humanity," he says. "Other doctors have donated to the foundation."

Rose's father encouraged her to share her talents with others, and as a teen she began clipping silhouettes for patients at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. In addition to the Rose Ribbon Foundation, she has conducted silhouette-cutting events to benefit other charitable and civic organizations, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Houston Food Bank, Houston Grand Opera and the city's Alley Theater.

No one is more proud of Rose's silhouettes than her sister, who has fond childhood memories of their mother teaching them how to cut paper dolls, birds and chickens. Rose never stopped creating paper treasures with scissors and sharing her artwork.

"Cindi took this horrible thing that happened to me," Skolkin says about her cancer, "and is helping to heal people-psychologically, spiritually and emotionally. What an honorable thing to do."