Hair donations add one more step to lather, rinse, repeat

Liz Laubscher

Hillary Lovell, senior political science major, decided to donate her hair to Locks of Love after returning from studying abroad in Switzerland. Both of Lovell’s paternal grandparents died of cancer. Photo Courtesy of Hillary Lovell

Credit: Ron Soltys

Many students on campus have found out just how gratifying a haircut can be.

Emily Schmidlin, junior French translation major, has donated her hair three times to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hair pieces to children suffering from illnesses resulting in long-term hair loss.

Schmidlin said she was hesitant to have that much hair cut off the first time, but now it’s become routine.

“I think Locks of Love is a great organization, as it allows children with severe medical conditions to regain self-esteem,” she said. “Self-esteem is extremely important to being content in life.”

Hillary Lovell, senior political science major, decided she wanted to update her look in July 2006 and thought it would be better to donate her hair than for it to be thrown away.

“I felt like my donation might make some young cancer patient more comfortable in public and that was enough for me,” she said.

Lovell said both her paternal grandparents died of cancer.

“I thought it would be a small commemoration in their honor,” she said.

The inspiration for Audrey Newbacher, sophomore fashion design major, was a survivor. Newbacher spent the summer as Maid Marian at the Great Lakes Medieval Faire in Geneva, where she met a cancer survivor.

“My lady-in-waiting was played by a girl who survived lymphoma in high school,” she said. “She and I became very good friends and I cannot imagine what the summer would have been like without her.”

Newbacher said her stand-in had to wear a wig to make her appear medieval. She was so moved by her new friend, she donated 12 inches of hair days after the fair.

“I’m glad we have organizations like Locks of Love that can help cancer patients deal with their illness in a way that helps them to feel beautiful and normal again,” Newbacher said.

Melissa Erwin, former Kent State nursing student, also donated her hair — 14 inches of it.

“It’s neat to be able to help someone like that in such a different way than donating money or donating your time,” she said. “You are actually donating something that goes directly to the cause.”

People who donate their hair aren’t the only ones supporting Locks of Love. Many salons also get involved to help with the cause.

One of those salons is John Robert’s Hair Studio and Spa, with locations in Mayfield Heights, Chagrin Falls, Beachwood and Solon. Mia Pesce-Coleman, human resource coordinator for John Robert’s, said hair donation is an easy way for the donor and salons to help others.

“The Locks of Love and the Wigs for Kids programs are just great ways of being able to help everybody be able to donate,” she said. “It was just easy for us to participate in because we were already (cutting hair).”

They also explain the guidelines Locks of Love uses to decide what hair is acceptable. The hair must be at least 10 inches long when pulled straight. They also accept permed and colored hair, but not bleached hair.

Lauren Kukkamaa, communications director for Locks of Love, said all hair pieces are custom made for every child. The children are sent sample colors to choose from, and their head is then measured so the hair piece will perfectly fit their head. It then takes six to 10 ponytails to make the hair piece.

To date, Locks of Love has helped more than 2,000 children since its start in 1997. She also said hair donations seem to rise each year.

Contact social services reporter Liz Laubscher at [email protected]