Local women turn their pandemic hair into an uplifting gift – and you can, too
Were you one of those folks who skipped the salon and let your hair grow out during the pandemic? There’s a great way to make a good deed out of all that Rapunzel-style hair by donating it to any of a number of organizations that create wigs for children or adults battling cancer and other conditions. In fact, there’s been an uptick in hair donations since COVID restrictions have begun to ease, with many local residents turning their long locks into a far-reaching act of kindness in shades of blonde, brunette, and red.
In early June, Elise Gusse, a nine-year-old entering fifth grade at Rainbow Elementary, donated 10 inches of her gorgeous blonde hair. It was her very first donation.
Elise and her mother Sara chose to donate to Children With Hair Loss. The nonprofit organization provides human hair replacements to children with medically related hair loss due to cancer, alopecia, trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder), or even burns. A lot of families can’t afford premium wigs made from real hair, and even if they can, most wigs are sized for adults. Children With Hair Loss never charges for wigs and has provided more than 600 customized human hair replacement wigs and care kits per year since its founding in 2000. That’s a lot of hair!
Elise decided to share her hair for a simple yet important reason: to make a child feel better.
“If my hair fell out, I would feel very sad, so I know kids who lose their hair must feel sad,” she says. “Maybe I can make them feel a bit better.”
Mitch Eubanks of Oviedo’s Mitchell Wade Salon made the big chop, but he didn’t stop there. First, Mitch made five long braids in Elise’s hair, and then it was time for the scissors. When the cutting was done, he gave Elise a full style and blowout to make the most of her new ‘do.
Elise is very pleased with the look of her new chin-length bob and happy to help a child experiencing hair loss.
“When you get a haircut, your hair just gets thrown away,” she says. “At least they can use my hair for something.”
Six-year-old Eliana Rodriguez also made her first donation at Mitchell Wade Salon. The girl’s beautiful auburn hair went down nearly to the small of her back, and she brought it all the way up to a playful, wavy bob. That produced four foot-long braids that Eliana and her mom, Vani, chose to donate to Wigs for Kids.
“It’s a tough conversation to have, but Eliana learned about Wigs for Kids when we discussed cancer and how many children suffer from cancer,” says Vani. “Ellie is always looking to give back, and so the first thing she asked was how she could help.”
Katrina McCully from Oviedo regularly donates her hair. After a pandemic’s worth of growth, she made her eighth and most recent gift this past May.
“I finally got the courage to do it many years ago for Relay for Life, and it became something fun that I seem to do about every two years now,” says Katrina, who has enviable natural red hair. “Ever since I was little, people would tell me that they loved my hair and wanted it. Over the years, I have donated just because, but sometimes when I make the cut, it aligns with a family or friend who is going through cancer.”
This year, a friend’s three-year-old nephew is undergoing treatment, and many of the young boy’s family members shaved their heads in support. Katrina joined the cause by giving 10 inches of her hair to encourage his fight.
“My donation this time is in honor of Lucas Zaky,” she explains.
When the weather warms up, Katrina is typically ready for a change. Her last donation was in July 2018.
“My hair is thick, and it gets really hard to manage,” she says. “My only requirement is that I keep it long enough for a ponytail.”
While Katrina has given to Locks of Love and Pantene Beautiful Lengths in the past, this time, she also chose to support Children With Hair Loss.
“I was able to bring my older son with me this time, and we let him cut the ponytails,” says Katrina. “It was a fun opportunity for him to help.”
Beautiful hair and kindness runs in the family. Katrina’s sister, Kara Gajentan, also recently donated to Children With Hair Loss.
“Their rules for the kids getting the wigs seem fair and free, and they allow for color-treated hair,” Kara says.
This cut, which totaled 10 to 12 of Kara’s 30 inches, took off most of her colored brown hair.
“My hair has been growing out for the last four years or so,” she explains. “It was sort of a personal mission to see how long I could grow it.”
Kara has been working from home for the past year but reported back to the office this summer.
“I was thinking a refresh would be something nice,” she says.
Keep on Cuttin’
Christina Dantes can’t recall how many times she’s donated her dark-brown locks, but it’s usually eight to 10 inches each time. For her last donation, which took place in December 2020, she mailed 10 inches to Children With Hair Loss. Along with her daughter and granddaughters, she’s also given to Locks of Love and Pantene Beautiful Lengths.
“Since I was complimented that my hair is in good health, I decided to grow and donate it,” Christina explains. “I like to help people feel good about themselves.”
If you’re looking for a fresh new ‘do, consider snipping that pandemic hair and donating to someone who might need it. It’s a win-win.
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