Locks for Love
Kid Reporter gives her hair to a friend
Scholastic Kid Reporter Ashlyn Stewart holds up the more than one-foot ponytail of her own hair she donated to Locks of Love in November 2007. (Photo courtesy Ashlyn Stewart)
If one of your New Year's resolutions was to take action to help others, then Scholastic Kid Reporter Ashlyn Stewart has a story that should inspire you. Ashlyn wanted to make a difference in the lives of the many kids who suffer from long-term or permanent medical hair loss. So, she decided to have a foot of her hair snipped and then donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any illness or condition.
Ashlyn, whose hair cascaded down to her knees, was anxious about getting her locks cut. After all, she hadn't stepped into a hair salon since she was 3 years old.
"I've had my hair long for as long as I can remember," says the 12-year-old from Salida, Colorado. "When I finally held my ponytail up and saw how much I cut off, I realized if a lot of people started doing this, we could make a difference."
Locks of Love has been providing hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children since 1998. In that time, the organization has helped more than 2,000 kids, thanks to the generosity of young people like Ashlyn. In fact, more than 80 percent of hair donations come from children.
An Emotional Toll
While many kids have lost their hair due to cancer, severe burns, or certain skin conditions, the majority of recipients suffer from a condition called alopecia areata. The disorder causes growth of a person's hair follicles to shut down, which results in hair loss on the scalp and in other areas. There is no known scientific cause of or cure for alopecia.
One of Ashlyn's close friends began losing her hair last winter and was later diagnosed with alopecia. After watching her friend get teased about her hair loss, Ashlyn decided it was time to act.
"To have little or no hair, I think that would be awfully traumatic," she says. Everyone cares about what they wear. Right after clothes, it's hair."
A total of six to 10 ponytails are required to make just one hairpiece. A single hairpiece can take up to six months to manufacture—every strand of hair is hand-fed into a silicone base.
Children can choose the length, as well as the color, of their hairpiece. As they grow, they may reapply for a new one every 18 months. Unlike wigs, hairpieces are vacuum-fitted, so they don't fall off. Kids can even swim and shower with them. While they would normally cost between $3,500 and $6,000, the Locks of Love hairpieces are provided at a reduced price or at no cost.
It has been only a couple of months since she had her tresses snipped, but Ashlyn is already looking forward to making another donation.
"I'm planning to grow my hair out and hopefully have enough hair to donate again soon," she says.
If you would like to make a donation or just learn more about Locks of Love, visit www.locksoflove.org.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
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Karen Fanning is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.