Women in Jerusalem headed to the beauty salon on a mission last week. On November 11, some 250 of them donated their hair, for a total of 53.1 kilograms (117 lbs.) cut in five hours, setting a new Guinness Record for a single drive. The hair will be used to make wigs for children with cancer.
While the Jerusalemites went to the Malha Mall to have their locks shorn, Israelis can participate in the charitable effort throughout the month of November all over the country. Some 200 salons from Nahariya to Eilat are offering haircuts free of charge to anyone wishing to donate their locks.
The drive is organized by the Zichron Menachem Cancer Support Center in Israel in partnership with Pantene Israel. Founded in memory of young Menachem Ehrental, who died after battling cancer for 15 years, the non-profit provides a variety of types of short- and long-term support to children with the disease, both in their homes and in the hospital setting.
For those who cannot get to a salon, the organization provides instructions on its website as to how to go about washing, cutting and then sending in your hair. Almost any type of hair is accepted, except for damaged hair, or hair that is completely grey or white. Also, dreadlocks are not accepted.
“In order to make a child with cancer feel as normal and beautiful as possible, the goal is to fashion a wig that looks exactly like his/her hair,” Zichron Menachem’s website explains. “The child’s head is measured, and the wig is constructed from hair that is the closest match to his own. A curly-topped kid wants curls. A girl with red braids wants red braids. A teen with frizzy brown hair still wants… frizzy brown hair, even if she’s always complained about it!”
Any hair not used to fashion a wig for a cancer victim is sold, with the proceeds going toward cancer research and treatment.
Israel’s setting a Guinness Record is all very exciting, but it pales in comparison to the excitement a girl with cancer feels at receiving a wig that helps her restore a bit of her sense of self as she goes through treatment.
Ella Landesberg, a teenager from New York, know exactly how that feels. She lost her hair almost immediately upon beginning chemotherapy for leukemia in the fall of 2011.
“My hair used to be one of my favorite attributes. I always got compliments on how nice it was,” she said. She was able to get a natural hair wig at cost through Upper East Side salon owner Andrew DiSimone, who also runs a program whereby people can become “hairy godmothers” and sponsor the cost of a wig for a child or teenager with cancer.
Landesberg, 19, was glad to hear about the success of the hair drive in Israel. “I think it’s really special that these people are willing to donate their hair to cancer patients. I know that when I lost my hair, I was so grateful for the wig that was given to me,” she said.
“It’s also heartwarming to see that cancer survivors are among the women that gave their hair because of how personal that donation is. It goes to show that what goes around really does come back around,” she added, as her own hair starts to grow back long and strong enough for her to one day donate it.