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Italia Ricci raises breast cancer awareness with a bob — and you can, too

Julie Sprankles is a freelance writer living in the storied city of Charleston, SC. When she isn't slinging sass for SheKnows, she enjoys watching campy SyFy creature features (Pirahnaconda, anyone?), trolling the internet for dance work...

This is how Italia Ricci honors her cancer-stricken character on Chasing Life

As the star of ABC Family's Chasing Life, Italia Ricci plays April Carver — a quick-witted, hardworking 24-year-old fighting to overcome leukemia. And that connection to cancer through her character is inspiring Ricci to act in other ways, as well.

This week, Ricci had her hair styled by JCPenney Salon artistic director, Nick Stenson, in Glendale, California, to kick off a special partnership between JCPenney and City of Hope.

"[JCPenney] is donating $1 from every salon haircut to support the City of Hope breast cancer awareness program, which is amazing," said Ricci. "And you can also get a free pink highlight, which I didn't know about or I totally would have done it today."

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Called "Cuts for Hope," the promotion runs Oct. 11 through Oct. 18 at all JCP salons nationwide, with a portion of proceeds from every haircut and trim being donated (up to $100,000) to City of Hope.

For Ricci, who'd never worked directly with City of Hope prior to hearing about the partnership, Cuts for Hope sounded like a great cause to support. "Everybody needs their hair cut," she said, pointing out how simple JC Penney makes it for the public to participate.

"It's an easy way for everyone to get involved, because it's not coming directly out of your pocket. You're doing something you need to do, but for a better reason this week."

Since taking on the role of April in Chasing Life, Ricci has found she can't help but step up her altruistic efforts.

"I joke that this show is making me put on my good person hat," she said, "because it's things that I would always want to do, but before this I had never lit that fire or taken that first step to actually doing something that could make a difference in people's lives."

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That all changed, though, when she began to receive mail from fans about how much they are affected by Chasing Life and how much they can relate to the character. The young adult cancer community, it would seem, is really responding to the show and feels represented by April.

And that was enough to light the fire in Ricci.

"I'm trying my best to advocate as many organizations and charities as I can to help show my support to the cancer community, so I was honored," she explained of being asked to kick off Cuts for Hope.

"City of Hope is sort of the whole package for people dealing with this illness — and not just people who are directly dealing with this, but also the families and friends and anybody who is holding the hand of someone taking this journey," she said. "So I really respected their entire organization and I wanted to be a part of this."

Ricci, who has been splitting her off-season from the show between charity work and planning her wedding to The Flash's Robbie Amell, says her role on Chasing Life and the charity work it inspires help remind her just how fortunate she is to be cancer-free.

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She'll be heading to Vancouver soon to start filming a movie and she's looking forward to the time away.

"Even when we're not filming, I'm doing charity work and events and doing my best to be an advocate that is worthy of telling April's story," she said, "and I know it sounds unfair because a lot of people can't take a break from it, but it'll be nice to have a couple of weeks to pretend to be somebody other than April."

Still, Ricci wouldn't trade that role or the advocacy it inspires — like the Cuts for Hope program — for the world.

"Honestly, at the end of the day I feel like it does more for me and my soul than I am ever going to do for the people I am trying to help, 'cause I am just so honored and proud to be in the position I'm in and able to make the difference that I'm trying to."

Hollywood Humanitarians

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