Children and teens suffering from hair loss because of cancer or other conditions often are embarrassed to be seen in public. They may feel self-conscious about their disease as it is, and a bald head on a child fosters the perception that all is not normal. Several organizations, including both Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love, collect donated hair and craft it into wigs that are then made available to individuals who have lost their hair.
Wigs for Kids
Founder Jeffrey Paul, a hairdresser, created Wigs for Kids in 1980 in response to his niece's plea for help in dealing with hair loss from chemotherapy. About 150,000 strands of hair, or 12 to 15 ponytails, are used in the making of each wig. Donated hair must be a minimum of 12 inches in length, and hair cannot have been permanently color treated or permed. Wigs for Kids never charges recipient families any fee for wigs; all expenses are covered from donations or from the sale of donated hair that is not usable in wigs. Recipients must be age 18 or under; most are suffering from cancer or alopecia, a condition marked by permanent hair loss.
Locks for Love
Madonna Coffman created Locks of Love in 1998, after her daughter developed alopecia, a condition Coffman herself had suffered from. Children and young adults age 21 or younger suffering from alopecia remain the main recipients of Locks of Love wigs, although youth who have lost their hair from chemotherapy or because of other conditions are also eligible. Donated hair may be colored but not bleached, and it must be at least 10 inches long. Recipients are either given the wigs free or charge or asked to contribute on a sliding scale.
When deciding between Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love, consider several factors. The first is length. Hair donated to Wigs for Kids must be 2 inches longer that that donated for Locks of Love. Given that hair grows at a rate of 1/2 inch per month, that's a four-month difference in terms of when a donation can be made. Another consideration is cost to the client: Wigs for Kids never charges for its wigs, while Locks of Love may ask families to pay according to ability to cover some of the cost of the wig. One way both organizations offset expenses is by selling unusable hair. Locks for Love, for example, sells gray hair or hair that is less than the required 10 inches in length. Convenience is another factor: Both groups have partner salons that will cut a donor's hair for free or at reduced cost and send the hair directly to the organization.
If neither Wigs for Kids nor Locks of Love is convenient, several other options exist. Wigs 4 Kids -- not to be confused with Wigs for Kids -- is a Michigan-based organization created in 2005 that makes wigs available to children under 18 within that state. Women needing wigs can turn to Pantene, a hair product division of Proctor & Gamble. Pantene makes wigs available through the American Cancer Society. Hair donated to Wigs 4 Kids must be at least 10 inches long, whereas hair for Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program need only be 8 inches.