A breath of fresh hair
Students give a cut above to cancer victims
By Sarah Malcore
There is no gift as special as the gift of one's self. Last week, more than 20 girls from St. Bernard School in Green Bay gave their long hair to benefit cancer patients. The "Cut Off" day was held in cooperation with Locks of Love, a charitable organization that collects ponytails of human hair to be made into a wigs for young cancer patients who lose their hair though chemotherapy treatments.
Sr. Pat Clement, CSJ, principal of St. Bernard School explained how the idea for this event originated.
"In the fall of the 2000-2001 school year, Miss Kate Deehr had a lesson in religion education on giving to charity. The children were assigned to find out which charities his or her family donates anything at all too, and to bring the list to school. Each student shared what charity they and their family have been involved with."
A seventh grader mentioned that at one time she had donated her ponytail to Locks of Love. The other students were interested in the organization and researched it on the Internet.
"It turned out that there was enough interest among the students to have their own Locks of Love Cut Off day at the school," said Sr. Clement. "About 20 students stopped cutting their hair in October when the idea came about. Around December a letter was sent home to parents about the Locks of Love Cut Off."
Approximately three weeks before the Cut Off, Ally VandenBusch, a kindergarten student at St. Bernard School, was diagnosed with leukemia. The importance of Locks of Love hit home for the students. This spurred more interest and several more girls signed up.
"I think this is a great cause, and I jumped at a chance to do this especially after I heard that someone from our school has leukemia," said seventh grader Kristen Wilinski.
"I am doing this because I look at people who don't have as much hair as I do and I feel bad for them," said classmate Deirde Forbes. "I am scared but I am at the same time happy to do this for people who need it."
"This is a great opportunity to give my hair to people with leukemia," said Amber Basten, also a seventh grader. "It is nice to see a lot of other participants."
Five hair stylists from the parish donated their time for the event. Craig Schenk from Attitudes Hair Design Studio, Kay Kowaleski from J.C. Penny's Hair Salon, Sue Gullstrand from Studio on George, Lois Gegare from Studio on George and Mary Woelfel from Trends Salon were all present to do the cutting and styling.
"I think this is a cool thing to do considering one of their fellow students is now in need as well as another child from the parish now," said Woelfel. "All these girls sacrificing their locks for something so special is wonderful."
The stylists put rubber bands around the ponytails, and cut off at least 10 inches of hair from each participant. Once the ponytail was removed, each volunteer was given a stylish new do.
Amanda Winters, a seventh grader was the first one to complete the task.
"I did this because of my kindergarten classmate," she said. "I wanted to do something to help."
"I am very proud of my daughter," said her mother Debra Winters.
The grandparents of Ally VandenBusch were moved to see all the support for their granddaughter.
"This is a response to all of my prayers," said Jerry Tilot, grandfather.
"There is a lot of loving, sharing and caring people out there," said Marcie Tilot, VandenBusch's grandmother.
"This event is something to see, it really hits home for me."
Although a few tears were shed for the lost locks, the feelings were overall very positive about the day. Deehr was unable to be at the event, but was instrumental in planning it. She was able to meet with all the participants at the end of the day and take a group picture with them.
"The day seemed to go very well," she said. "The kids were ecstatic. Some girls were nervous because they have had long hair all of their lives, but the were excited about their new hair styles."
"The day was so positive that some girls have requested to have this again next year, so they have a year ahead of them to grow out their hair."