Hannah Widawer, 12, has wanted to donate her hair to charity for the past few years as part of a project she’s working on in preparation for her bat mitzvah next October. Part of her bat mitzvah training includes donating her time to a charity as a way to understand the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, or to “Repair the World.” But rather than simply cut her hair at a salon and send it off impersonally to the charity, Widawer wanted to involve her community in her project.
“Part of what I need to do for my bat mitzvah project is inform people about the charity I’ve chosen, what I’m doing for my project, and get others involved, too. So I thought I would help organize a big event that a lot of people could come to. My mom is helping me with this project, and we’re going to ask my friends, family and members of the community to participate as well,” Widawer said.
Widawer decided several years ago that she wanted to give her hair to a girl who had lost her own hair because of either cancer or a medical condition called alopecia areata. She chose Locks of Love because they make wigs out of donated hair. But the project now has even more significance for Widawer because of the recent loss of her grandmother to cancer. “I lost my grandma in June 2009. Her name was Martha Widawer. She started chemotherapy but it didn’t work. She bought a wig but never got to use it, so I’m doing my bat mitzvah project in her memory.”
The project has also grown in scope from its original size. “We originally were just going to challenge Hannah’s friends to donate their hair along with her,” said Marlene Widawer, Hannah’s mother. “But a few months ago, I got the idea to get a local hair salon involved in order to expand interest in the event and to help a local business at the same time.” Debi Dodgson and Mary Merrill, the owners of Salon Oases in Woodland Hills where the event will take place, have agreed to be the Widawers’ partners on this project. Salon Oases is providing the venue. The elder Widawer, who is active at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, is the former PTA President at Justice Street School in West Hills and was a co-leader for Hannah’s Girl Scout troop, plans to reach out to her synagogue, school and Girl Scout communities as well. “This event is open to the entire community. We hope to collect enough hair and/or financial donations to make at least 18 hairpieces. Eighteen is a significant number in Judaism because it means chai, or ‘life.’”
The event is scheduled to coincide with the end of summer when everyone is getting ready to return to school. Billed as a “Back-to-School Community-Wide Hair Cutting Event,” Widawer says they hope to be able to capitalize on people’s excitement as they prepare to return to school. “This is a great opportunity for people to come back to school with a whole new look while doing a good deed at the same time,” said Widawer. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, September 1, 2010 from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm. It will be held at Salon Oases, located at 22941 Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills, California.
This event will benefit Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides vacuum fitted hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children and young adults suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. They meet a unique need for children by using donated human hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. Others have suffered severe burns or injuries or endured radiation treatment to the brain stem or other dermatological conditions that result in permanent hair loss. The vacuum fit is designed for children who have experienced a total loss of scalp hair and does not require the use of tape or glue. The prostheses they provide help to restore self-esteem and confidence, enabling these children to face the world and their peers.
The organization, which began operation in 1998, provides the prostheses to children, ages 6-21, every 18 months for a total of up to 8 hairpieces. These hairpieces require between 6-10 ponytails and take approximately 4-6 months to manufacture. Thousands of bundles of donated hair arrive as a result of the national publicity that Locks of Love receives in newspapers, magazines, and television programs. It is estimated that children comprise over 80 percent of the donors, making this a charity where children have an opportunity to help children.
Donated hair is evaluated for its usefulness according to the following guidelines:
• It must be at least 10,” clean and dry.
• It must be bundled in a ponytail or a braid.
• Bleached hair cannot be used.
• Hair that has been dyed or permed can be used.
Monetary donations to Locks of Love are tax deductible and all donors will receive an acknowledgment from Locks of Love.
For more information about Locks of Love, please email the Events Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the September 1, 2010 Community-Wide Back-to-School Hair Cutting event, contact Marlene Widawer at email@example.com.
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