• 66°

Brooker donates hair for good cause

Getting a hair cut is not unusual. Even cutting hair that has grown very long isn’t all that uncommon.

But 10-year-old Olivia Brooker, a fifth-grader at U.S. Jones Elementary, had a special purpose for her hair cut last Friday. Once cut, her hair was sent to Locks of Love, a not-for-profit group that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children

suffering from medical hair loss.

Olivia knew just what to expect.

After all, this was the second time she had donated her long hair. The first time was a little over two years ago.

Her mother, Chrissy Brooker, thought Olivia meant a regular trim of her hair that, at the time, extended well down her back.

No, answered Olivia. She wanted it like in the magazine. Chrissy again misunderstood. She thought Olivia meant a hair styling magazine.

No, Olivia patiently explained. She wanted to cut it "for children who don’t have hair."

After checking out what the donation involved, Chrissy enlisted the help of hair stylist Lisa Gant in Tuscaloosa. Lisa was willing to help. Since then she has worked with two other young girls who wanted to donate their long hair.

Olivia plans to do it a third time, too. Others have found out about the program and taken part. One of Olivia’s classmates, Lindsay Thorne, donated her hair this summer. Olivia’s grandfather, who lives in Georgia, told a young girl about it, and she, too, donated her hair.

Locks of Love, with headquarters in Lake Worth, Fla., began in 1997 and has helped more than 1,000 children who experience total loss of scalp hair. Most of the applicants suffer from an auto-immune condition called alopecia areata, for which there is no known cause or cure. Others experienced severe burns, endured radiation treatment to the brain stem or had other dermatological conditions that result in permanent hair loss.

Thousands of bundles of donated hair come from around the country. Donated hair must be at least 10 inches, but preferably 12 to 14 inches, in length. It must be bundled in a pony tail or braid and be free of damaging chemical processing. It takes 10 to 15 donated ponytails to make one custom, vacuum-fitted hairpiece which, if purchased retail, would cost $3,000.

Locks of Love provides children with hairpieces and repairs free of charge or on a sliding scale based on the financial need of the parents or guardians.

Following instructions, Chrissy packed the clean, dry hair in a plastic bag before mailing it in a padded envelope.

The first time Olivia cut her hair, her father, Johnny Brooker, didn’t know anything about it. To say he was surprised puts it mildly.

This time both Olivia’s parents were on hand to watch proudly as their daughter’s hair was bound into five ponytails and cut.

For more information write to Locks of Love, 2925 10th Ave. North, Ste. 102, Lake Worth, FL 33461, call toll free 1-888-896-1588, or visit the web site at locksoflove.org.