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Lots of locks: Three donate hair to kids in need

| Sunday, March 24, 2002

It can be devastating when a child loses hair because of illness or injury.

Locks of Love, a Florida-based charity, has provided wigs to hundreds of children, often restoring self-confidence and self-esteem along with a new hairstyle.

Locks of Love Executive Director Jennifer Cox said in a phone interview that 90 percent of those who receive wigs get them free, with the remaining families charged on a sliding scale. A child can receive up to five custom-fitted hair pieces before the age of 18 from the nonprofit organization.

The No. 1 cause of hair loss in children is a disorder called alopecia areata, which is little understood by the general public according to the Web site of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

It is an autoimmune skin disease that causes the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It affects between 1 and 2 percent of the world's population, including more than 4 million people in the United States.

Alopecia areata has a profound impact on the life of those affected. While it occurs in males and females of all ages and races, the onset most often begins in childhood and can be psychologically devastating. Although not life-threatening, alopecia areata is most certainly life-altering, and its sudden onset, recurrent episodes, and unpredictable course have a profound psychological impact on the lives of those disrupted by this disease.

Other causes include cancer treatments, severe burns or trauma to the scalp and compulsive hair pulling. "There's a host of reasons as long as my arm — one little boy had a dog bite, one little girl had an accident on a go-cart. Anything that causes permanent hair loss," Cox said.

The wigs, that would retail between $3,000 and $4,000, take 10 to 15 donated ponytails to create over a period of about four months, she said. Based in Palm Springs, Fla., the organization, has helped over 600 children since it began in 1997.Cox said they receive about 1,8000 ponytails a week in the mail and about 80 percent of the donors are children. Donated hair must be at least 10 inches (preferably 12 inches) in length, bundled in a ponytail or braid, free of hair damaged by chemical processing, be clean and dry, placed in a plastic bag, and mailed in a padded envelope to: Locks of Love, 1640 S. Congress Ave., Suite 104, Palm Springs, FL 33461. Donated hair that is not suitable for use in children's hairpieces may be sold at fair market value to offset the cost of manufacturing. Monetary donations to Locks of Love are tax deductible.

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