BURGETTSTOWN - During a single-day event, a local business raised more than $5,000 and obtained nearly 40 ponytails for Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides wigs to children who have lost their own hair because of chronic illness.
Heaven hair salon raised $5,537, and the 10 volunteer stylists gave 89 cuts, with 36 participants donating ponytails of 10 inches or longer and the rest paying a $10 cover charge, which was donated to the charity.
The event, held Saturday at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse, is the eighth-annual event sponsored by the salon. Over the previous seven years, the event had raised a total of $12,800 and helped area residents donate 140 ponytails. A wig costs around $3,500 to make or requires between six and 10 ponytails.
"We're really busy right now - way busier than we were last year," said April Alexy, Heaven co-owner, Saturday.
The event also featured a Chinese auction, with prizes ranging from tickets to sporting events to overnight stays at hotels to fine dining, with nearly 60 regional businesses and individuals donating prizes. Many of those donating prizes were among Heaven's clientele, and several also volunteered to assist during the event.
"They're a lot of our volunteers," said April Alexy. "We couldn't pull this off without their help."
Those who attended the event and donated ponytails of 10 inches or longer received a free hair cut, and the person donating the longest ponytail received a special gift basket. The longest donated ponytail this year was 20 inches.
The event also included a free buffet and entertainment by Ryann Bartoletti and Friends and Iron Skillet. The Easter Bunny and Rainbow the Clown also were in attendance to interact with and entertain those children attending.
One little cancer survivor was among those children, and her mother attended the event to donate her own hair in honor of her daughter.
"That really touched me personally," said JoAnn Alexy, Heaven co-owner. "Her 2-year-old had cancer, and they spent about six months going back and forth for her treatments. Seeing things like that makes it all worth it."
Ghost in the Head and Many Voices, Huron American Indian educators, also attended the event. Ghost in the Head attended to "scalp" some of those donating their hair during the event.
"I'm very happy to be part of this program," he said.
Betty Smith also was in attendance to donate her hair, remarking she donates her hair every couple years.
"It's something I do because I've known a lot of kids who had cancer," she said.
Betsy Golden attended the event in celebrate seven years of being cancer free this week.
"I'm a survivor, and I'm here in support," said Golden.
Those who have had their hair cut elsewhere but would like to donate it to Locks of Love can drop off the bagged ponytail or braid at the salon during regular business hours through Monday.
Locks of Love organized as a nonprofit organization in 1997 under the direction of Madonna Coffman, a retired nurse who developed alopecia in her 20s after receiving a hepatitis vaccination. She was able to recover, but 15 years later, her 4-year-old daughter also developed alopecia and lost her hair. At that time, Coffman directed all her volunteer efforts toward Locks of Love. The organization has recipients in all 50 states and Canada.