KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP–Fourteen-year-old Shea Arnold tightly closed her eyes as she sat in the salon chair. She sighed nervously as 11 inches from her long brown hair were bound into ponytails, cut and placed in a plastic Ziplock bag.
“It’s soooo short!” Arnold exclaimed as she ran her hands through her now unfamiliar locks. A group of excited girls stood by flashing cameras at their friend. When it was all over, Arnold proudly smiled with her bag containing seven ponytails, 77 inches of hair that will be used to make hairpieces for disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
“It’s short, but I like it, and it’s going to a good thing,” Arnold said after hugging her friend who was next in line.
Arnold, of Harrodsburg, Ky., was one of 120 girls and women from across the country who donated their hair to Locks of Love during Blume in Kansas City, Mo., July 10-13. Locks of Love was one of the “5 Ways of Giving” featured during the national missions event for teenage girls and collegiate young women sponsored by national Woman’s Missionary Union.
Despite a few shed tears and nerves, most girls who donated said they had no second thoughts when it came to giving up something they cherished to help someone else.
“When they told us about this opportunity at church, I answered ‘yes’ before I even thought about it,” Arnold said. “I made a commitment to my church and to God and I hope whoever gets my hair will have a good time with it.”
While some girls took the challenge alone, others took the plunge together, like three sisters from Amarillo, Texas — Bethany Hunter, 18; Rebekah Longbine, 14; and Sarah Longbine, 13.
Sarah Longbine was the first sister to make the decision after learning of the opportunity in her church Sunday School class. Content with her decision from the beginning, Sarah said it was even easier to give knowing her sisters were doing the same.
“I was going to get my hair cut anyway so I thought it would be good to give my hair to someone else instead of throwing it away,” she said as she waited for her turn in the chair.
While the ultimate reason for giving was to help restore dignity to a child suffering from medical hair loss, each sister had her own reasons for donating.
“I remember my mom saying one day in the car that our hair is our crown of glory and I thought, ‘I can go with short hair, but some people don’t have hair at all,'” Rebekah Longbine said. “Now the person who gets this is going to have a crown of glory just like I did.”
Older sister Bethany Hunter made the decision just 30 minutes before shears sliced through her hair.
“I just care too much about the way my hair looks,” Hunter said. “I fuss with it way too much so I decided to give it to God for him to use it for someone else.”
At Blume, sisters donated alongside sisters, mothers gave with their daughters, and friends gave with friends. Others like Ariel Smith, 13, of Granite Falls, N.C., received the first haircut of their lives.
When haircuts were complete, girls were given their ponytails in plastic bags to pin on a board for all to see. Some wrote brief fun or heartfelt messages on their bags for those who would receive the hair.
Gloria Young, a nurse with Baptist Nursing Fellowship, donated her hair in celebration of being cancer-free for 10 years. She also volunteered in the Locks of Love salon and, knowing what it’s like to lose her hair to cancer, said she was touched by the sacrifice these girls made. Children under 18 comprise more than 80 percent of Locks of Love donors, according to the non-profit organization.
“I’ve teared up a few times with the girls today,” Young said. “I’ve told them, ‘It’s not a bad hair day until you’ve had a day with no hair.'”