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Connellsville girl gives a lock of love

| Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hannah Goldsberry watched anxiously as stylist Natalie Dunston tied her hair into a ponytail and picked up a pair of shiny, silver scissors. As Dunston began cutting above the elastic hair band and through her thick hair, Goldsberry gritted her teeth. Dunston has only been at the salon for two months, and she never had done this before.

"Here you go," she said, holding the severed ponytail up for Goldsberry to see.

Her jaw dropped.

"Wow," Goldsberry said, half laughing, half shrieking. "Oh wow."

Dunston handed her the ponytail, and Goldsberry then reached back to feel her much shorter hair. She looked like she was about to cry, but she knew her hair was going to someone who needed it.

On Friday, Hannah, of Connellsville, donated 16 inches of her hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides prosthetic hairpieces to children who have long-term medical hair loss. She got it cut at Showoff's Salon in Dunbar to commemorate a milestone, her 16th birthday.

"My grandma died of cancer, and I wanted to give my hair to little kids so they don't have to go through that," Goldsberry said.

Children who receive the hairpieces are financially disadvantaged and younger than 18. Most have a condition called alopecia areata, a mysterious, cureless disease which causes their hair to fall out. It affects more than 4 million people, half of which are children.

Most people who donate their locks to make hairpieces are children, although anyone can, as long as their contribution is at least 10 inches long.

"It's one of those things a lot of people would like to do, but most don't have that much hair," said George Stockman, owner of Showoff's.

Lauren Kukkamaa of Locks of Love said the Florida-based organization sends the hair to a manufacturer who transforms the cut hair into a stylish hairpiece. From the time Hannah got her hair cut until the day the new hairpiece is given to a child, it can take four to six months, mainly because it takes several weeks to create.

Each hairpiece functions almost exactly like a normal, permanent head of hair. The technology involved allows the hairpiece to create a "vacuum seal" on a person's head, Kukkamaa said. Children can play sports, shower and style their hair, and it can't be pulled off or moved out of place.

"The main goal and the main result that we see is a restoration of their self-esteem," Kukkamaa said. "They're returned to normalcy, basically, and all levels of confidence are restored."

Locks of Love has provided more than 2,000 hairpieces to children since 1997. Kukkamaa said the hairpieces usually would cost about $6,000 and are otherwise hard to find. The program has been extended to those who have turned 18, giving them the opportunity to own a similar hairpiece just in time to start college or their first job. When she came in to the salon, Goldberry's hair was far past her waist. Now, it falls just below her shoulders.

"I haven't cut my hair since third grade," she said, surprised that she had gone through with the donation, but smiling at her new look. "It's never been this short before."

To donate to Locks of Love or to find a participating salon, visit www.locksoflove.com.

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