A little hair goes a long way

NAPPANEE — December is a month based on giving. While that magnanimity is typically focused on winter clothing, canned goods or toys, Bremen’s Sarah Stine gave something a little more personal this holiday season.
Two days after Christmas and a day after her fifth birthday, Sarah had her first full haircut for a donation to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children who suffer from long-term medical hair loss.
“I had heard other people had done this, so I wanted Sarah to do this, and when she gets older I think she will understand it more, how sacrificing her hair will benefit other people,” mother Jennifer Stine said. “Some day she’ll really know that she’s helped someone — not somebody she knows, just out of the generosity of her heart.”
Sarah had her hair cut by Carla Morganthaler at New Attitudes Hair and Nail in Nappanee, which has a history of donating patrons, who must have ponytails of 10 inches or more in length in order to donate.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, maybe once every three or four months,” said New Attitudes owner/stylist Angie Woods. “If we cut off that much hair, we usually donate it. It’s pretty rare to cut off that much, though.”
After hearing about Locks of Love via word of mouth, Stine visited the organization’s website to find out more about it. Sarah had previous trims, but this was her first major cut in the back, and she reached the mandated donation length.
“You have to have 10 inches of ponytail, and they took 10 inches off,” Stine said.
Locks of Love is a non-profit charity based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Most of the children it serves suffer from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder which causes hair follicles to shut down. Other recipients include burn victims, chemotherapy patients and sufferers of various skin disorders.
A lot of the afflicted children Locks of Love helps have migrated toward seclusion due to teasing or embarrassment from the attention their hair loss causes.
“Many of these children are suffering from a loss of self-esteem and confidence,” Locks of Love Communications Director Lauren Kukkamaa said. “They stop participating in many normal activities children should be doing, whether it’s sports, sleep-overs or summer camp. We’re not curing anything, but every hairpiece we provide, we see it being beneficial to a child’s well-being and we see many of them return to those activities they should be doing.”
Because they are made from human hair, Locks of Love’s custom-made hairpieces are the highest quality in existence. They can be colored or styled, and won’t fall off thanks to a vacuum-seal design. The hairpieces, which take four to six months to make, remove insecurities that were beyond the child’s control, and it is a life-changing experience.
“We’re here to see the photos, read the letters and e-mails, and to get the phone calls we receive from the children,” Kukkamaa said. “It touches everyone in a different way.”
During its 13 years of existence, around 80 percent of Locks of Love’s donors have been kids.
“We see a lot of children getting involved, and children helping other children is so important,” Kukkamaa said. “Donating one’s hair is very personal, and coming from a child makes it all the more special.”
Stine, an administrative assistant at Bremen Elementary-Middle School, would love to see other local children follow Sarah’s example, to help brighten the lives of those in need.
“That would be wonderful,” Stine said.