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Ponytail power: Locks of Love makes wigs for sick kids | Slideshow
One after another, volunteers bravely stepped forward Saturday to have handfuls of their long hair cut short.
The hair was destined for the nonprofit Locks of Love. The organization, which prefers hair donations of 10 inches or more, uses the hair to make wigs for children. Donations collected Saturday came at the prompting of Asa Hansen, a chiropractor at Twin Lakes Chiropractic Center who grew his hair out for almost a year with the intention of giving it to Locks of Love.
Locks of Love serves children in the United States and Canada. With the assistance of a manufacturer, it turns hair donations into wigs for children experiencing hair loss. Between six and 10 ponytails of hair are needed to make one wig, Locks of Love spokeswoman Lauren Kukkamaa said. Kids may apply for a new hairpiece every 18 months.
"Most of these children are going through a very long-term or permanent hair loss state," Kukkamaa said.
Locks of Love is a small organization. It operates from one office and employs only six people. The Florida-based nonprofit was formed in 1997, and has served roughly 3,000 kids to date, she said.
"We really rely on our volunteer supporters," Kukkamaa said. "We really couldn't do what we're doing without them."
Donating hair to kids in need has been on a bucket list of sorts since Hansen, 30, was a young teen, he said. He tried growing his locks out twice when he was younger, but cut his hair when other kids started teasing him. Hansen knows people with cancer, but has never personally been affected by the disease or any other illness that causes long-term hair loss, he said. But he remembers watching a Locks of Love television special earlier in life, he said.
"I'm not really sure how it got on the list," Hansen said.
Hansen was able to scratch the goal from his list during Saturday's three-hour ordeal at the chiropractic center. During this time, 10 volunteers had their hair cut by stylists with Fashion Hair Design in Milton. Two more individuals dropped off hair they had chopped months before, but had held onto for one reason or another.
Hansen was the first to see inches of his shiny, healthy hair fall away. For 11 months, he used a hair treatment called ovation cell therapy to make it grow fast. As soon as it was long enough to donate, he invited friends, family and clients to join him in the volunteer event.
He smiled and joked most of the way through his cut. One by one, 18 small ponytails of hair were chopped from his head. When the stylist was done, Hansen was left with a buzz cut.
Unlike Hansen, most people who donated their hair experienced mild butterflies in their stomach. Heather Martian, one of the first volunteers, requested the stylist use a ruler to measure the minimum amount needed for a donation. She sat silent and shed a tear as she watched the stylist cut off more than eight inches of her long blonde hair. Martian said she's never worn her hair short before and was frightened of what it might look like.
Other volunteers hardly batted an eyelash as inches of their hair fell loose. Amy Springer shed hair that fell to the middle of her back in favor of a pixie cut. She had donated her hair before and let her stylist decide how much came off and how her remaining hair would be styled.
As the donations began to slow, Kaitlynn Bentley, 8, and her mother, Katheryn Bentley, came in with their family in tow. Both Kaitlynn and Katheryn, with hair hanging well past their shoulders, were eager to donate long thick ponytails.
Mom and daughter had heard about Locks of Love earlier in the year, and had decided last summer to get their hair cut. When they heard about Hansen's event, they rushed over to participate. Katheryn Bentley wondered how her daughter would handle things.
"Nobody's ever cut her hair besides Mom," she said.
But Kaitlynn was fearless. She jumped right into the chair. When asked by the stylist how short she wanted to go with her new hairdo, she pointed to her chin.
When all was said and done, people were getting used to their shorter cuts. They were sad to see years of hair growth disappear so quickly, but were glad to have helped kids in need.
"It's going to a good cause," many in attendance could be heard saying.
To learn more about Locks of Love, visit www.locksoflove.org.