Fifty-six Keene State College now have hair eight or more inches shorter than it was last week in the effort to help those with cancer feel more confident and beautiful.
On Saturday, April 11 females and males gathered in the Spaulding Gymnasium to donate their hair so it can be made into wigs and donated to women with cancer through Pantene Beautiful Lengths.
According to their website, “Beautiful Lengths is a partnership between Pantene and the American Cancer Society… The role of Pantene is to help women grow long, strong, beautiful hair and to provide the funds to turn this hair into free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer.”
KSC has hosted Pantene Beautiful Lengths events in April for three years now.
Alyssa DeMarco, who is now the organizer for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths event at KSC, said she has been involved in the event since its beginning.
“I had really long hair my freshman year and had no interest in cutting it, but my RA, Allison Bedel, who graduated last year, convinced me that I should cut it for a good cause so I ended up cutting twenty inches of my hair and have been commited ever since,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco said she was so dedicated to educate people about the cause and getting people involved that she decided to take on the role as organizer when Bedel graduated.
“Pantene works with a company who makes the wigs, then they go through the American Cancer Society to donate the wigs to women so they don’t pay anything for them,” she explained.
Brittany LaFleur, a first-year student, said she donated her hair because her aunt had breast cancer and needed a wig after losing her hair.
“I just wanted to donate my hair so that I could help this great cause. If I can help to make them feel beautiful, that is what I’ll do,” she said.
LaFleur said since her aunt went through the process of finding a wig she liked that made her feel beautiful during a tough time, she sees the importance of those wanting a wig getting one.
“Some people feel that wigs are not a necessary part of recovery and that is why some insurance companies won’t help to pay for them, but I feel that wigs are necessary for recovery. If it makes someone feel beautiful and comfortable while fighting off cancer, then wigs are definitely needed,” she said.
Those who donated at the event, held in the Spaulding Gymnasium, were given a free t-shirt and allowed to choose who cut their hair. Their hair is then measured with elastics before cut and donated.
LaFleur said her Resident Director, Ashley Rivard, was the one to cut her hair during the event.
“She donated her hair a couple of months ago, which was her fourth time donating,” LaFleur said.
She added, “This was only my second time donating by I plan to donate eight inches again as soon as I have enough.”
All of the donors get their haircut at the same time, she explained.
“There is crying, happy tears of course, but it’s definitely a shock,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco explained that donors usually have a friend or their mom cut their hair, or, if the donor knows someone close to them with cancer, they will often have them do it.
After the donors have eight or more inches of their hair cut, stylists from Moda Salon and Supercuts help make sure their hair is even.
DeMarco said that, although previous years there have been more than 100 people donate their hair at KSC, this year there were only 56.
She attributed this lower attendance to a lot of people not knowing about the event.
DeMarco said for next year she plans on potentially creating a club or adding an eboard to help extend awareness.
As far as convincing people to donate their hair, DeMarco said she tries to make girls realize this is something that is really going to help change the life of someone with cancer.
“Do you have some kind of personal experience with cancer? Of course, everyone does. I just try to make sure they connect with that,” she said.
“A lot of people think it’s scary, but it’s not that bad. It’s shorter than the short side of a piece of printer paper. Hold that up to your hair and its not as much as you think it is,” she said.
DeMarco said another way people can support the cause is by purchasing the Pantene Beautiful Lengths shampoo or helping with the fundraising for the event at KSC.
DeMarco explained, “It’s hard for someone who doesn’t have a medical background to really be able to have a great impact on someone who’s going through such an awful battle with an illness.” However she said by donating their hair to a good cause gives people the opportunity to make a difference.
Julia Kneeland, a senior at KSC, said this was her first time donating her hair.
“My grandfather passed away from cancer, but he did not lose his hair. I know that cancer is a horrible thing and I know that it affects many many people and I can see how heartbreaking that it would be to lose my hair so I wanted to donate the hair that I love to someone that has to struggle to deal with being sick,” Kneeland said.
Kneeland said she was the first person to pledge for this year. She said she pledged to donate her hair this April shortly after she found out about the event.
“I donate blood regularly, I am an organ donor, a bone marrow donor and I just donated my hair. The things that I donate are things that I am very lucky to have so I see no harm in donating what I can to people that are less fortunate. That is why it was a no-brainer for me to donate and be a small part of the cause,” she explained.
Kneeland said she would recommend others to donate their hair for many reasons, but most of all because “hair grows back.”
“I would recommend it because it is the least that a healthy person can do. It is a small sacrifice,” she said.
Kneeland also said she is loves her new look.
She explained, “I am very happy with the turnout. I have a bob now, but I am glad to have helped and I know that I have a fresh new look for spring, less work to do on my hair in the morning and that it will grow back.”
LeFleur also agreed she loves her new hair cut.
“It does feel super short and I do miss my long hair, but the donation was so worth it. My hair will always grow back, so why not help someone who isn’t as advantaged as me,” she said.
DeMarco added, ”For some of these women they aren’t going to be better, so the hair that they braid or run their fingers through is going to be a donated wig, theirs may never come back and yours will grow back.”