Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ponytail Love

I have a 14-inch ponytail in a zip lock bag on my desk and I don’t know what to do with it. My nine-year-old daughter had about half her hair snipped off last Monday with the intent to donate it to a charity that would craft it into a wig for a child with alopecia or chemo related hair loss.

Locks of Love, the organization that is synonymous with the cause, may not use Amelia’s hair because they collect thousands of ponytails a week but can only make a couple hundred wigs a year. This ponytail could end up in the trash.

So I’m doing research, sifting through websites and blogs, and it’s making me dizzy. There’s no lack of controversy. A 2007 New York Times article I found laid out some of the facts:

Surplus hair is sold to commercial wig manufacturers to offset Locks of Love’s overhead. According to its tax returns, Locks of Love made $1.9 million from hair sales from 2001 to 2006. They send the best of the hair it receives to a wig manufacturer, Taylormade Hair Replacement in Millbrae, CA, which rejects up to half. Taylormade then sells the wigs wholesale to Locks of Love for less than $1000.

Now, I don’t want my daughter’s hair to be sold and bleached so Brittney can buy some new hair extensions.

Also, Locks of Love doesn’t give wigs to children, but charges on a sliding scale, and according to a particularly snarky blog, they force potential recipients to jump through hoops, writing pleading letters and getting recommendations from coaches and clergy.

Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths is another choice. Pantene is the $3 billion global hair products division of Procter & Gamble and their Beautiful Lengths real hair wigs are distributed for free to women (not kids) with cancer through select American Cancer Society wig banks. This Pantene campaign is one of several that the Women’s Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation is committed to. Each event links a brand like Revlon, Callaway Golf, Mercedes & Saks with a pencil thin movie star to raise awareness, funds and support for women with cancer. Just a few minutes navigating the website and I can see that they are stirring a lot of pots. The campaign’s emphasis is heavy on product, celebrity and beauty and some of these products contain carcinogens. The platoon of stylists, engineers and professionals employed in the Hillary Swank photo shoot could have paid for six wigs.

The NYT article also mentioned Wigs 4 Kids. The website felt homespun and heartfelt. Maggie Varney, a hairdresser and owner of a salon in St. Clair Shores Mi, formed this nonprofit in 2003. Most of the donations are from kids. Their mission is to boost the self-esteem of children through age 17 with appearance related challenges that cause hair loss including alopecia, lupus, chemo, burns and other disorders. They provide custom, age appropriate wigs to help kids feel better about their appearance at no cost to the families. They are funded solely on contributions, with no corporate sponsors or celebrity spokesperson.

I turned my research over to the donor. She analyzed the data and looked at each website and very quickly and made a firm decision: Locks of Love is the most well known and they do it for kids, but families have to pay for the wigs and her hair could be sold to Britney or thrown away, so that was a deal breaker. Pantene only does it for grown ups and is all fancy and professional and trying to sell beauty stuff, so no. Wigs 4 Kids is free and only for kids and even though nobody’s ever heard of it they seem personal and family owned and not flashy.

Kid to kid is the appropriate choice.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, would never even have thought of donating hair (apart from the salon floor, that is!). What a great idea. And sounds like your daughter made a wise choice :)