By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Nine-year-old Kierra Hellermann of Elrosa has already made three donations to Locks of Love in her short life.
According to the Locks of Love Web site, that means Kierra’s hair donations have made up nearly one-half of one wig for a child without hair.
Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 21 suffering from long-term hair loss from any medical diagnosis, according to the group’s Web site.
Locks of Love meets a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics.
“When Kierra was five, she’d been complaining that her hair kept getting caught in the desk behind her at school,” said Cheryl
Hellermann, Kierra’s mother.
“She asked if she could please get it cut, and I thought, if she wants it cut then let’s help somebody,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl had heard about Locks of Love by word-of-mouth, and Kierra thought it sounded exciting. They found the Locks of Love Web site and just printed off the application and took it to a salon.
“The most interesting thing is knowing my hair will be made into a wig,” Kierra said.
“I feel good after donating. I recommend that others do it, too,” said Kierra.
Since then, Kierra has had a Locks of Love haircut about every two years. Her first two cuts were in Melrose, and the most recent was at Marlene’s in Elrosa.
Wigs made with the donated hair go to many children suffering from alopecia (an autoimmune disorder that prevents hair from growing), as well as children who have had cancer or trauma.
The prostheses are custom-made for each young person and have a vacuum seal to prevent falling off.
“Fast-growing hair is something the kids get from their dad,” said Cheryl. “Three-year-old Elyse has hair nearly long enough to donate now.”
To be donated to Locks of Love, hair needs to be in a ponytail or a braid before being cut, and at least 10 inches long. It can be longer than 10 inches, and very curly hair can be pulled straight when being measured. The hair can’t be treated in any way.
“We just put it in a padded envelope with the completed donation form and mail it to Florida,” Cheryl said. “The instructions are all on the Web site.”
The organization always sends Kierra a thank you note. Her most recent card said, “Kierra went to great lengths to help a child.”
A previous card thanked Kierra for touching the life of a child.
Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. Others have suffered severe burns, had radiation treatment to the brain stem or other conditions that caused permanent hair loss.
The vacuum fit is designed for children who have had a total loss of scalp hair and does not require the use of tape or glue. The prostheses help to restore self-esteem and confidence, enabling these children to face the world and their peers.
It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the donors are children, making this a charity where children have an opportunity to help children.
But individual donations are not the only way to support what Locks of Love does for children.
Events and fundraisers help to raise awareness and donations for Locks of Love. In many locations across the United States, Locks of Love projects have been conducted at Relay for Life events.
Registered salons provide continuing support as part of a very large network.
Referrals for children who might benefit from these services are always needed.
“I wish I knew who the wigs went to,” said Kierra.
She thinks she will continue to donate to Locks of Love, and encourages other people to also donate.
When asked if she would be donating her hair when it is long enough, three-year-old Elyse simply nodded her head, “yes.”
To find out more about Locks of Love, visit: www.locksoflove.org.