Family Affair

Philly native Tara Sulimay Acosta was just 16 years old when she lost her mother to cancer. She understands the uncertainties and struggles for children growing up with a parent battling cancer. She remembers what it’s like to go without, especially at Christmas time. When she heard about Operation Santa at Legacy of Hope, without hesitation, she jumped right in to help out.

Despite the hardships of her teenage years, Acosta persevered and has become successful on multiple fronts. She has put her 20+ years “behind the chair” to good use. Acosta is a master hair stylist, colorist and barber who runs bustling salons (Sulimay’s Salon and Barber Studio on Fairmount Avenue, and Sulimay’s Studio on Main in Manayunk). Of note, Acosta is the fourth generation of barbers in her family; her daughter, Cianna, now a senior stylist at Sulimay’s, marks the fifth. While the salons are her principal focus, Acosta has many roles beyond those in the beauty and service industry and is acutely aware that they don’t exist in a vacuum. “It’s a constant juggling act between being a mother, business-owner, stylist, author, podcast host, [and imminently, a real estate agent].”

Acosta has managed to cultivate the overlap between those roles as a vehicle for growth—not just hers, but that of others—which is testament to her work ethic and resourcefulness. At the core of Acosta’s desire for growth is her love of people. She spends time getting to know her clients when they’re in her chair and she’s working her magic on their hair. The chair is a vehicle for her broad spectrum of clients to share their stories and lessons. 20 years worth of conversations gave Acosta the opportunity to learn about success and failure in myriad careers and businesses—”the kinds of things that business school doesn’t teach.”

What started as a passion project took on a life of its own, when a conversation with an editor resulted in Business Press Expert publishing her book, ,The Street Smart Side of Business in 2021. “It’s basically a guidebook to share insight from people in all different industries.” Publishing the book was gratifying, but Acosta had the urge to dig deeper. Enter ,The Street-Smart Side of Business,, podcast, which continues in the same vein as its printed counterpart.

Acosta’s Philly roots run deep. She was born in Philly; her parents eventually built a house in South Jersey, where they lived for a little bit. “My dad always had the barber shop in Philly. We would come to work with him on Saturdays.” Her parents divorced, and her dad moved

into the apartment on top of the barbershop, her mom stayed in Jersey. Acosta and her three siblings spent weekends in Fairmount. At the age of 42, their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a stay-at-home mom raising four kids on child support from a barber’s salary. This combination of circumstances presented lots of struggles—financially, emotionally and physically battling her illness. Acosta and her siblings had to move back with their father, and then again back to New Jersey.

“We did a lot of moving. There was no consistency. We did this whole back and forth thing for a while, I never knew what high school I was going to, which wasn’t great for college prep.” She took her father up on his offer when he asked ”Why don’t you just go to hair school and come to work with me?” She didn’t necessarily want to, but eventually agreed to go work with her father in 1996, and together they converted his one-chair ‘old boys’ barbershop into a hair boutique for both men and women. A couple years later, when she was about 20, she considered going back to college. But she had a child by that point, which made the balancing act too much to handle; so she continued at the salon. “I grew to love what I do, which is ironic because initially I didn’t have a strong interest in the salon.”

Eventually her father retired due to medical reasons and, on her own in 2015, she opened Sulimay’s Studio on Main, in Manayunk. This location recently celebrated its eighth anniversary! In 2019, she moved the original Sulimay’s from 24th and Brown and reopened as Sulimay’s Salon & Barbering Studio, located near 24th and Fairmount.

Despite the demands of dividing her time between her Manayunk and Fairmount salons, guiding her team of 25 stylists and assistants as they keep their clients looking sharp, raising a family, and producing a podcast, Acosta prioritizes giving back to the community. She learned about Legacy of Hope when Gina Mancuso came into Sulimay’s Fairmount salon for a haircut. “When Gina told me about Legacy of Hope’s mission it immediately resonated with me. I remember my mother struggling to pay the bills at the same time she was fighting her cancer.”

“As a small business I feel a duty to help the communities that we’re in evolve, right? Bring people together on things.” She backs up those words with Sulimay’s regular support and involvement in community ventures, like little league, school functions or showcasing local artists on our gallery wall. “I’m always happy to give back. When Gina told me about Operation Santa we hopped right aboard to sponsor a family. People don’t realize how many folks out there are struggling—living paycheck to paycheck because an illness is dictating their life. They might not be able to pay their electric bill, or be able to make their rent, basic things that so many people take for granted, especially during the holidays.”

Acosta’s lived experience gives her a deeper understanding of the hardships families experience because of a cancer diagnosis. She shares “when my mother got cancer it dominated our lives. Watching her try to navigate through her illness as a single parent and eventually lose the battle was very sad. Mom lost her battle at 49, passing away on my 16th birthday. My siblings and I moved in with my dad. Five of us shared a one bedroom apartment above his barber shop. It was utter chaos. I don’t know how to explain, but when we lived with dad, we never felt poor. When we were living with mom, we felt poor, maybe because of the constant struggle.”

Both Sulimay’s locations will be involved with Operation Santa, using social media to generate support for the family they’re sponsoring. You can donate to Sulimay’s Operation Santa at https://secure.legacydonations.life/Sulimays

* Acosta’s book is available on Amazon; you can subscribe to her podcast from the usual streaming venues.

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Michele Redrow

Michele is a Director on the Legacy of Hope board and also serves on the Executive Committee.

Gina Mancuso

Gina’s experience as the very successful co-owner of CoreFitness, LLC coupled with her expertise in planning special events makes her the perfect Vice President for Legacy of Hope. With energy, passion, and drive that makes her seem superhuman, Gina’s connection to our mission is a personal one.

“Both my father and my dear childhood friend were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of one another. They were surrounded and supported by friends and family throughout their battle and until their passing. No one should suffer through a diagnosis alone and, without Legacy of Hope, some people would do just that.”

greg garber

Greg Garber is the director of Oncology Support Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

dr. kevin kelly

Dr. Kevin Kelly leads Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board to seek out and support the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia using a merit-based system.  He is Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology.

David April

David is the founder of the Fishtown Beer Runners, an organization with chapters all over the world based here in Philadelphia.

joseph ruggieri, jr

Education: Bachelor’s of Science from West Chester University in Management and Finance

Bio: As a member of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s upper management team, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge regarding finances, management, team-building and planning to the Legacy of Hope board. Joseph linked up with Michael, our President, and Wells Fargo began supporting Legacy of Hope annually.

“My father passed away from what started as Colon Cancer in 2015. Cancer is horrible and if there is something I can do to help others impacted I would want to be a part of it.”

mary chicorelli

Professional:  Mary is a certified city planner for Philadelphia, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Honor Roll First Judicial District of Philadelphia.

Bio: Mary’s insight into the legal world is invaluable to Legacy of Hope, both in keeping our daily operations moving fluidly as well as making connections for our patients and their families when needed.

“Michael reached out to me about 2 years ago through mutual friends. We worked together to help a woman with stage 4 cancer get her electricity turned back on after it was shut off during the winter. I’ve been 100% supportive of Mike’s vision since then.”

Kimberly S. Reed

An award winning international speaker, author, corporate trainer and diversity, equality and inclusion executive, nationally recognized thought leader, expert, strategist and advisor to some of the world’s most influential organizations in global professional services, health care, financial services, consumer products and pharmaceutical industries.

Kimberly is a seasoned leader in transforming organizations into high-performing enterprises and challenging leaders to live without limits, with more than 20 years of HR, talent acquisition, and diversity & inclusion experience; successfully turning around troubled diversity practices by designing, building, leading, and shaping high-performing cultures at global organizations with robust strategies, global employee development programs and enterprise-wide initiatives that have increased revenue growth and organizational brand eminence.

Dr. Claudia Capparelli, PhD

Affiliations: Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Education: PhD, University of Calabria, Cosenza, Italy – 2011

Focus & Impact:  Focus on the role of the SOX10 transcription factor with regard to tumor cell heterogeneity and plasticity across multiple genotypes in melanoma. Investigating how SOX10 plasticity/heterogeneity affects the response to MEKi and anti-ErbB3 combinations in WT BRAF melanoma patients. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Outrun the Sun Melanoma Research Scholar Award

  • Unical Fellowship Visiting Scholar

  • International Pigment Cell Conference Travel Award

  • Best Poster Presentation, Ninth Annual Jefferson Post-doctoral Research

  • INPDAP Fellowship for Student Merit 

  • University of Calabria Fellowships for Student Merit 

Bryan Lathrop

Bio Coming Soon

Maree Lavo

Bio Coming Soon

Carol Sollenberger

Bio Coming Soon

Rebecca Blinn

Bio Coming Soon

Nia Andrews

Bio Coming Soon

Dr. Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Affiliations: The Wistar Institute, The Chen Laboratory, University of Maryland

Education: PhD,Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo (Dean’s Award for outstanding dissertation) – 2006

Focus & Impact:  Focus is on the molecular mechanisms of brain metastasis originating from primary tumors like breast cancer, and the interplay between cancer cells and the stromal cells that populate the brain microenvironment. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards​:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy Award

  • Susan G. Komen, CCR Basic/Translational and Clinical application

  • The V Foundation for Cancer Research Award

  • Dissertation Research Award, Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 

Michael Rowe

Awards:

Volatile Media Management’s Mover, Shaker, Changemaker Award – February 2017

Miles Mack Community Services & Leadership Honorable Mention – 2016 TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2015

TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2014

Bio:

With his free time so limited, Michael manages to fuse his work with his other passion: running. Whether it is with the Fishtown Beer Runners, our own Team Relentless Hope, or his closest friends, Michael can often be spotted on the streets of Philadelphia keeping himself fit and active.