Sports editor loses his ‘trademark’
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG, Banner Staff Writer
Feb 17, 2013 | 1266 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Locks of Love
SISSY HILLIARD, owner of Sissy’s Salon, uses a mirror to show Richard Roberts his newly shortened ponytail after having a nearly 12-inch braid cut off to donate to Locks of Love. Banner photos, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
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Losing all their hair because of an illness can be a traumatic experience for children, especially for young girls. To help soften the blow, organizations like Locks of Love make it possible for children who may not be able to afford hairpieces or wigs to regain the look of having hair like they did before they became ill.

The national nonprofit organization based in West Palm Beach, Fla., has seen enthusiastic support from Cleveland residents.

Locks of Love offers free or discounted hairpieces to children and young adults up through age 21 who have lost their hair due to various health-related issues. Those who suffer from permanent hair loss due to illnesses like alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes a person’s hair follicles to stop growing, receive wigs made from human hair with a “vacuum-grip” prosthetic base that grips to their scalp in such a way that it does not need glue to stay put.

Locks of Love partially relies on people willing to donate their hair to provide wigs to children in need.

One such donor is Cleveland Daily Banner Sports Editor Richard Roberts, who recently decided to donate his long, gray braid to Locks of Love. He said he had become known for his long hair, which he often wore in a ponytail or braid, among friends and family. His long hair had been somewhat of a trademark look for him, but he wanted to support Locks of Love, an organization he said he had heard a lot about over the years.

“A lot of people have said it has become part of my personality,” Roberts said, adding that his desire to donate trumped his friends’ familiarity with his hairstyle.

The minimum hair length needed to donate to Locks of Love is 10 inches. Roberts’ exceeded that number, and he was able to donate close to 12 inches of braided hair.

While Locks of Love can only use colored hair to make wigs because they are being prepared for children and young people, gray hair can be sold to companies that make wigs to offset the cost of making the Locks of Love wigs. However, the organization cannot accept dreadlocks or bleached hair due to the damage that has been done to the hair.

“I just thought Locks of Love was a pretty good organization,” Roberts said. “It’s one of those things you hear about often.”

Those interested in donating hair can go anywhere to get their hair cut as long as they can keep it bundled together with hair elastics and placed in a clear zip-top bag. Hair salon chain Great Clips offers a free haircut for anyone donating to Locks of Love and will mail the hair for customers, according to the company’s website. However, people wishing to donate hair can visit any salon and have their hair cut to donate and send it themselves. Roberts chose to visit Sissy’s Salon on Harrison Pike. The Locks of Love website explained that the best bet is to call a salon and ask how a stylist can assist with a hair donation.

It takes six to 10 ponytails to create one hairpiece. Those multiple donations give families a way to afford custom-made hairpieces that could normally cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

In addition to custom-made human hair wigs for children ages 6 and above, Locks of Love also offers synthetic wigs to those dealing with more temporary forms of hair loss like the kind a person experiences when they are receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Children under the age of 6 can also receive wigs, but they can only receive synthetic ones from Locks of Love, regardless of medical condition. According to the organization, young children cannot receive the more expensive human hair wigs because their heads are still growing rapidly each year. By the age of 6, children are more likely to wear the same wig size for awhile. The majority of the hairpiece recipients Locks of Love serves are girls, but some boys receive them as well.

For someone considering having their long hair cut, Locks of Love may be a worthwhile alternative to letting hair be thrown away, said Roberts. The hair can be donated to an organization that, based upon the financial needs of the children and young people’s families, can provide them with either free or discounted wigs that are custom-made for them.

“[It is] something so simple that could do something good for someone else,” Roberts said. “Why not?”

To learn more about donating to or receiving hairpieces from Locks of Love, visit the organization’s website, LocksofLove.org.