Sitting onstage in front of an assembly of screaming, cheering young women, Trinity High School science teacher Heather Hopek scarcely raised an eyebrow as a woman approached her with a pair of shears, and in one quick swoop snipped away her long blonde ponytail.
The chop kicked off the high school’s first annual Share the Hair event, where 15 students and three teachers succumbed to the scissors in an effort to donate tresses to Locks of Love.
“It’s an organization that makes wigs for children under 21, boys and girls who suffer from any form of hair loss,” said 17-year-old junior Carolyn Paneral, who pioneered the haircutting event at Trinity. She is a four-time donor, her first experience dating back to first grade. With her father’s encouragement, Paneral decided it was high time she try to get her friends and classmates involved. As a senior member of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A, she opted to stage the event as one of her scout projects.
The young participants paraded onstage in the high school’s auditorium, Friday, to show their fellow students their “before” looks, then made their way back to a classroom where volunteer stylists from James Anthony Salon stood ready to measure, cut and bag 18 ponytails. When the snipping was over, the young women marched back across the stage to show off their new, shorter ‘dos.
“[It’s] for families who can’t really afford to go out and buy their own wig,” said Paneral of the non-profit organization. “They accept products, they accept donations of money, and they accept hair.”
Ten inches is the minimum required to make a wig, but Locks of Love will take lesser amounts of hair, sell it, and put the money toward wig-making. Trinity students were asked to consider donating a minimum of 6 inches.
17-year-old junior Ariana Rodriguez donated 8 inches in honor of a friend who lost her life to leukemia. “She was only 19 years old,” said Rodriguez of her friend, Ashley, who died two years ago. “Ever since she passed away, I’ve been growing out my hair to donate for her.”
When she heard that Paneral was looking for volunteers to participate in Share the Hair. “I said, now is my time,” Rodriguez said.
When the day began, 16-year-old junior Olivia Jordan’s blonde hair fell well below her waist. And she liked it that way.
“My hair is really important to me,” she said. “I’ve been growing it out since forever.” But Paneral’s call for volunteer donors got her thinking. “I love my hair, but it could mean so much more to someone in need,” she said. When it came to be her turn in the stylist’s chair, Jordan nervously covered her face as the woman cut off 10 inches. But when she uncovered it, she was smiling widely.
Most of her fellow classmates shared the same enthusiasm. “I don’t care,” said 18-year-old senior Elizabeth Ortega, fingering her now shoulder-length curls. “The cause is just so worth it.”
All in all, the young women gathered more than 10 feet of fringe for Locks of Love. Paneral said she was thrilled that the event turned into such a success, and urged other classmates to get ready for more. “We’re doing it again next year,” she told the young women. “Start growing your hair out.”