A Paducah woman’s donation to Locks of Love honors the memory of her mother, whom she lost to lung cancer on March 22, 2010.
Locks of Love is a charitable group that takes donated human hair and weaves it into wigs and hairpieces for disadvantaged children suffering from hair loss.
Michelle Henry, 45, said her mother, Ruthann, was first diagnosed with her disease in 2001, though through treatment she enjoyed remission until December 2009.
“My mother had 22 chemo treatments and 18 radiation treatments. It was very emotional to see her and go through that,” Henry said. “She lost her hair, and it made her sick. All we could do was sit and pray and ask God to give us some hope.”
Henry said her mother’s hair loss began after her first treatment, so she used wigs, bandannas and head wraps. She also opted to shave her head instead of dealing with ongoing hair loss.
Henry said she began to grow out her hair at length in 2008. With hair past her waist, she decided to get a cut near the beginning of October. She asked her cosmetologist Amanda Keeling if she knew about Locks of Love.
“My mother meant the world to me. Unless you or someone close to you has battled cancer, you don’t know what they go through,” Henry said. “Nothing will take my mother’s place, but with Locks of Love I can at least give back and help someone else. I’m blessed to give.”
Lauren Kukkamaa, communications director for Locks of Love, said her organization began in 1997. In its history, it’s provided hairpieces for more than 3,000 children. An eligible child with chronic hair loss may receive a new hair piece every 18 months up to age 21. Wigs are woven by manufacturers at a reduced cost, with full costs offset by the sale of surplus hair.
“The best thing a person interested in donating can do is to visit our website, www.locksoflove.org,” Kukkamaa said. “We have our guidelines for donation and a donation form. We can accept a hair donation from anywhere, as long as the guidelines are followed.”
The hair donation guidelines say hair must be at least 10 inches long. Colored or permed hair is acceptable but bleached hair is not. Other guidelines may be viewed at the website.
Amanda Keeling, of Smart Style at the South Side Wal-Mart, cut Henry’s hair for the donation. She said she sees about 30 Locks of Love donors per year.
“Most have some kind of friend or loved one with cancer,” Keeling said.
Henry added this was her first donation, but she plans to grow out her hair for subsequent donations.
“My hair will grow back, and I will help again with a donation, but I give God all the glory,” Henry said.