Had it. Cut it. Gave it!
Under the canopies at Auburn Festival Plaza on Saturday, July 19th, people sat in hydraulic chairs, braving the heat for a worthy cause. Four hair stylists and one salon owner stood on platforms in the center of the plaza, taking the atmosphere of a hair salon into the open air for Locks of Love.
The apprehension of rain early in the morning disappeared as blue sky slowly broke through, and Taylor Cote, Stacy Williams, Christopher Dufour, Brenda Theberge and myself began cutting 10 inch ponytails from willing hair donors at nine in the morning.
The first two people to donate their locks were Ruth Davis of Auburn, who is a cancer survivor herself, and Emily DeTroy, 16 and a student at Gray-New Gloucester High School.
“I had cancer five years ago, and want to donate my hair to Locks of Love,” said Davis.
“I’ve donated to Locks of Love before and I felt that I should do it again,” said DeTroy, who’d been growing her hair out for the past year and a half.
Locks of Love, originally tied to a for-profit wig retailer, became a non-profit organization in 1997. Founder Madonna Coffman’s own experience with alopecia, as well as her daughter’s, inspired her to help other children who suffer from medical hair loss.
Unlike many wig retailers, Locks of Love make wigs and hairpieces that are specifically designed to fit children. Adult wigs require modifications that can leave a child’s skin irritated and might not stay in place; something that can be an added source of stress.
The organization, located in Florida, has helped 2000 children nationwide, providing custom, vacuum fitted wigs for free or on a sliding fee scale based on income. Locks of Love relies on events like “A Cut Above the Band” to provide hair and money to continue its work.
As hair stylists, we know the importance placed on hair; how a bad hair day can affect a person’s mood, or a great cut and color boosts a person’s confidence. It was no stretch to realize that having hair that looks and feels natural is important to children as well.
Inspired by a client, Cote was determined to help Locks of Love any way possible. She began planning the fundraiser three months ago and, along with Williams and myself, enlisted the help of many area businesses who sponsored the event.
On the Fly Productions generously donated their time; something owner Scott Labbe says they try to do at least twice a year,and just the previous evening they had participated in a benefit for a Portland man diagnosed with cancer. Labbe and DJ, Moe Demers each volunteered their time as they emceed and played a variety of music, even quickly responding to Theresa Bowker’s request for “something with a little punk” as her green and blue hair was transformed by Cote into a trendy Mohawk.
Hair donors were amazed as those inches cut from their manes were placed into plastic bags and the real cutting began. Three men with hair that reached mid-back, hardly resembled what they looked like when they arrived, as they stepped down from the chairs sporting much shorter men’s cuts.
Our generous volunteers cooked hotmdogs and hamburgers, signed people in, sold T-shirts and raffle tickets for items like a 32” LCD HDTV (winner: Mike Williams) , a four gig iPod Nano and $50 iTunes card (winner: Joan Macri), and $550 worth of gift certificates to area businesses (winner: Whitney King-Buker), and swept up the hair that seemed to accumulate non-stop as we cut the hair of over 50 people who came to support the cause.
Zachariah Stearn, 14 and an up and coming stand-up performer, shared his unique brand of humor. Handling himself like a born comedian, Stearn’s material focused on hair, tourists and how road signs vary from state to state.
Loki, an original Maine band currently competing in WTOS’ Battle of the Bands, played a two-hour acoustic set in the afternoon, entertaining the event staff and audience. The band, who had played in Skowhegan the previous evening, donated a portion of their CD and merchandise sales to the fundraiser as well.
People who didn’t have the required minimum of 10 inches, donated money for their cuts, most above and beyond the set prices of $10 (men and children) and $20 (women). And some, like Walter and Michelle Dyment of Auburn, donated both ways.
A storm warning forced the event to move to Madison Avenue Salon, a Locks of Love donation center, just up the block from the plaza just after four o’clock, but that didn’t stop determined individuals from participating.
The Dyment family, who came to the event for Michelle to donate some of her more than waist long hair, weren’t phased when they realized the location had changed. Once inside the salon, Walter decided on the spot that he would also donate his, leaving with a clippered men’s cut and two stunned children.
To make just one wig requires six to 10 10" ponytails. Over 300 inches of hair was donated (that's five wigs worth) and $1000 raised during the nine-hour event, and the near-unanimous response from the people who donated hair was that they would be doing it again; sentiment and inspiration enough for us to make this a yearly event.
For more information, or to find a salon registered for Locks of Love donations visit www. Lockoflove.org. Know a child who is in need of a wig or hair piece? Visit http://www.locksoflove.org/apply.html for application information.