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Some Donate Hair For Holidays

Shoppers are scouring Central Ohio shopping malls this holiday season in search of the perfect gifts. But some people have found a way of giving of themselves...quite literally to help sick and injured children here and throughout the country. WOSU's Marilyn Smith explains.

46 year-old Joyce Patton is the finance director of the Ohio House Democratic caucus. This is the second time she has grown her hair to donate it Locks of Love, a non-profit organization located in Lake Worth, Florida. On this day, Patton is having her hair harvested by stylist Jennifer Marcelaine at "Images of Distinction," on Indianola Avenue in Columbus.

Patton, who sports a thick head of abundant straight blonde hair says this time she was eager to shed her locks which she describes as heavy and difficult to dry after washing. Patton's hair grows relatively quickly. it took her only about 2 and a half years to achieve the desired length of ten inches.

Length is only one requirement for donated hair. Locks of Love spokeswoman Lauren Kukkamaa.

"They can go anywhere to get their hair cut. If they want to donate their hair its ten inches or longer. Clean, dry, cut while its in a braid or a ponytail. Colored hair is okay just not hair that's been bleached." Says Kukkamaa.

Kukkamaa says hairpieces made with hair donated to Locks of Love are given to children under the age of 18 who financially qualify. She says the type of hairpiece they receive depends on wheather their hair loss is permanent or short term.

"With a short term hair loss, we provide a synthetic hairpiece that is suitable for children in terms of style and size. And the reason we do that for short term hair loss is these hairpieces can be provided very quickly. So this is going to be for the child who's going to go through a quick hair loss and then start to recover quickly. Now, with the prosthetic hair pieces we provide, which use the donated hair, they take about four months to manufacture. But, they are really designed for the long term or permanent hair loss recipient." Says Kukkamaa

Kukkamaa says since its founding nearly ten years ago, Locks of Love has provided two thousand hair pieces to children in the United States and Canada and has received hair donations from all around the world.

Faye Bullio a physical therapist in the department of oncology at Children's Hospital says sick kids do better physically when they feel good about how they look.

"Teaching those skills about caring for a wig or ways to wear make-up can really enhance your experience and make you feel better about going through this." Says Billio.

Bullio adds she and her collegues give patients tips about caring for hairpieces to help them last longer. Hairpieces made up of human hair can be expensive costing thousands of dollars. Locks of Love donates hairpieces to children or provides them on a sliding fee basis.

Sporting a chin-length bob, two-time donor Joyce Patton is toying with the idea of growing her hair for Locks of Love for a third time.

"Its a little thing that I can do for some poor kid who's struggling with cancer and they're parents, sadly, you know, with all the cancer treatments and things can't afford that additional luxury of having a wig." Says Patton.

While Patton managed to laugh during her recent haircut, patron Kathy Uhkart, having her hair styled in a nearby stall was quite moved by what she saw. "I just think its really admirable. I just had a friend who just went through breast cancer. We had a wig party for her and she got two different wigs and it just made her feel really good and I just think its great that these women can do it." Says Uhkart.

Locks of Love takes donations from both men and women but according to its Website it's children who make up more than eighty-percent of donors. Marilyn Smith WOSU News