More than half of all Americans donate clothing, food or other personal items. In recent years, I learned that over $390 billion was donated to charitable organizations and nearly seven million people gave blood. When it comes to “traditional” forms of giving, we seem to have it down. But what about other forms of donation that we don't consider? Hair donation is an often and overlooked form of donation that requires more research than locating your nearest donation box. However, it is also a donation that could make a huge difference for women and children dealing with cancer, medical conditions, or trauma resulting in hair loss. Whether someone loses hair from chemotherapy or as a result of a condition called alopecia (absence of hair), it affects more than just their appearance. Studies show that losing hair during cancer treatments makes patients feel sicker and affects their self-esteem drastically. People with naturally occurring or chemo-induced alopecia have higher levels of anxiety and depression, lower self-esteem, and poor body image.
I know we can all admit, we have said “I should do this; I will donate” but then never end up following through with it. Well here in our community, one little boy did something great, and we should all look to him for positive outcomes. His name is Caden Polanchek. He is a 5th grader from Legacy Elementary School in West Fargo. Here is his story...
Back in April 2016, Caden and his mother, Marcie, had just gotten home from the end of their day and Caden had made the statement that he wanted to grow out a wig for those with cancer. Marcie said okay as she thought it wouldn't take long since his hair grows fast, but it took two years and a month for him to grow his hair out to the 11 inches needed to donate. Marcie said that throughout the entire process, that this was a very thoughtful thing to do and was amazed at how well he took care of his hair through this long process. Reminding him to brush it, combing through snarls, since he has thick hair, reminding him to wash and scrub it more than short hair to get to the scalp to make sure to keep it clean. Obviously there was a little more struggle, considering every parent knows the struggle with little kids when they have longer hair, much more maintenance! But that didn't stop Caden!
While growing out his hair for over two years, Marcie began to notice that peoples behaviors began to change toward her son, in public and even within her family. When in public she said that she would watch adults look at him as if they looked disgusted with him or maybe that he didn't look “clean cut”, she wasn't sure what people were thinking, but would just openly make comments to Caden. Saying things like “Oh, looks like we are almost to the 10 inches before we can have your hair cut for the cancer donation”, then noticing peoples reactions would change to be more understanding. Caden had also made comments to his mother that kids at his school and daycare would make fun of him for having long hair. Marcie would tell Caden that they don't understand and that he should just make it a point to tell kids that he is growing it out for a cancer wig. That way they can think of doing it themselves or see what they could do to possibly help or donate. Marcie and Caden had encountered many people and they would congratulate him and then would also share their stories of those they had known that have had to deal with hair loss. It was good for Caden to hear those stories, to be able to connect and understand the full realization of what those people have had to go through in their lives. Having going though this process has made them realize, and they understand how people assume, the stereo types that girls have long hair and boys don't and that how judgments have been passed down through generations. Some people would seem to prefer the “clean cut” image, but Caden and Marcie didn't care what people thought.
Marcie is very proud of her son, the fact that he decided to do this out of nowhere, that there is no one he personally knows that would make him want to do this. She's asked him many times the past couple of years why he decided to do this and he said that he didn't know and just because he wanted to. He was even acknowledged at his school! They talked about it on their Marky In The Morning Show that the principal does. The school is using this situation as a learning tool to reinforce their 7 Mindsets and featured it as a segment on the show as “Live to Give”.
There are quite a few organizations that are available to donate to, but they decided to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. It was established in 2006 and has collected over 800,000 locks of hair used to make real hair wigs. Pantene has also donated over 42,000 wigs to the American Cancer Society Wig Bank, making it easier for women in need of free wigs to find them. If you are thinking of donating, most organizations have very strict rules. You want your donation to make a difference, so it's important to follow the rules. Thousands of donations are thrown away each year because they do not meet the criteria. Here are some things to keep in mind...
DO trim your ends before starting to cut your hair for donations. Most organizations require at least 8 inches of HEALTHY hair to use for wigs. This does not include inches of dead or split ends, so make sure you have a nice, clean cut before you start chopping.
DO clean and dry your hair thoroughly. Avoid styling products and make sure the hair is not even a little bit wet before you ship it.
DO follow the shipping directions exactly. Some organizations may require a zipper bag, two ties or other shipping requirements so pay close attention.
DO visit a donation salon if you can find one. Just search “hair donation salon near me” to see what pops up. They will know precisely how to part, tie off and cut your hair to match the organizations requirements.
DON'T assume organizations will take dyed hair. Some will accept dyed hair, but not highlighted hair, other organizations will only accept hair that hasn't been altered in any way.
DON'T mix ponytails from multiple people. It makes it easier for organizations to sort donated hair if it is all in individual envelopes. Fill out forms for each person who donates, even if they are in the same house, and ship them separately.
We should have more Caden's in the world. Be like Caden. He Digs the Wig!