Helen Elgas, 50, and Mika Maro, 24, may be family by blood, but they’re friends by fate.
The women were reunited in 2009 after Elgas placed Maro up for adoption nearly 25 years ago.
“We get along great,” Elgas said. “We’re really good friends.”
To give back to the community that brought them together, Maro and Elgas held a Cut-a-Thon event Aug. 11 at the Hair Raisers salon, 6158 W. Flamingo Road, for Catholic Charities.
For four hours, the salon offered haircuts, hairstyling, waxing and makeup for $5. Donations of baby items were also accepted.
The turnout was better than what anyone expected, with nearly $2,400 and a car donated.
“I got here about a half-hour before the event even started, and there was already a line forming out the door,” Maro said. “It was so busy.”
Although Jimmy Massi, the salon’s owner, hosted the event, it was Elgas who convinced him to donate to Catholic Charities, an idea sparked from her own personal story.
“I just wanted to give back to them for all that they do for us,” Elgas said.
When Elgas became pregnant at 24, she contacted Catholic Charities adoption services after deciding she couldn’t raise the baby financially.
“I was born and raised Catholic, so I felt comfortable going to them,” Elgas said. “I heard too many horror stories about the state.”
Catholic Charities arranged the services and found an adoptive family for the baby. In December 1988, Elgas gave birth to Maro.
However, she refused to hold, see or name her. She didn’t even want to know if Maro was a boy or girl but found out while signing the adoption paperwork.
“I knew if I did any of that, I wouldn’t have been able to give her up,” Elgas said. “It would have been too hard.”
After being released from the hospital, Elgas had to wait 10 days before signing the final papers. She called Catholic Charities every day, asking if she could sign them early.
“It was the longest 10 days of my life. I had so many emotions going through my head,” Elgas said. “Was I doing the right thing? Were they going to hate me? What kind of life would they have?”
Elgas’ grieving worsened a few years later when she was told she couldn’t have any more children.
She had given up her only daughter.
“It was even harder after that,” Elgas said. “I went through another grieving period wondering if I should try to get her back.”
Fortunately, Maro was placed with a loving family that made it clear she was adopted when she was little.
“I thought it was cool,” Maro said. “I went around school saying, ‘I have two moms.’ ”
In fact, Maro fit in with her family so well, people didn’t believe she was adopted.
“I had to literally call my parents on the phone and be like, ‘Tell my friends I’m adopted,’ ” Maro said. “No one ever believed me.”
Maro said she lived a normal life and had a great childhood. She grew up getting straight A’s in school and practiced gymnastics six days a week.
“I was spoiled,” she said, “but I earned it.”
Maro admits she always felt like a piece of her was missing, but she doesn’t believe what Elgas did was wrong.
“I wanted to know what was going on with my life,” Maro said, “but I think it was the best gift in the world.”
In 2009, Maro reached out to Catholic Charities to find her birth mother after years of debating whether to do so. Meanwhile, Elgas also contacted the organization in search of Maro that same week.
“They told me I had to go through this complicated process, and it would take a long time,” Maro said. “Then an hour later, another lady called me saying, ‘I know your mom. You can meet her now.’ ”
The woman, a social worker at the organization, had known Elgas through a support group she mentored for birth mothers.
In fact, she was the same social worker who gave Maro to her adoptive parents when she was born.
“She made all the arrangements and was in the room when (Maro) and I met,” Elgas said. “It was like a 360-degree turn for her.”
As for Maro’s biological father, Elgas has yet to tell him he has a daughter.
“I was just so in shock that I was pregnant in the first place, I didn’t want any added grief to it,” she said. “Now I wish I would have done it differently, but shoulda, woulda, coulda.”
Elgas has been trying to contact him since last December, but he refuses to return her phone calls. She’s adamant about telling him before Maro tries to meet him.
“If he says he wants nothing to do with her, I want to be the one to tell her that,” Elgas said. “I don’t want him to hurt her.”
Elgas believes the man already knows because there’s nothing else important she would need to tell him after 25 years of not speaking.
“I just want to know if he has kids,” Maro said. “I want to know if I have a brother or a sister.”
Despite not meeting her father, Maro said she had a blast meeting Elgas’ side of the family for the first time last August.
“It was like she was never apart from them, like she had known them her whole life,” Elgas said. “She fit right in.”
The women plan on hosting another event at the salon for Catholic Charities, but they haven’t talked much about it.
“We want the next event to be bigger and better,” Elgas said, “but right now, we’re just trying to recuperate.”
Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.