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Student gives heart and hair of gold

April 29, 1999|By Bob Maginnis

They're curing more cancers than ever these days, especially those that affect children. But some of the life-saving treatments doctors use can cause hair loss, sometimes on a permanent basis. At a time when a child wants most of all to be a normal part of the group, he or she must cover up with a hat or a wig made of artificial hair, the kind you can spot as a phony a block away.

Amanda Bundick, a 10-year-old student at Greenbrier Elementary School, decided that wasn't good enough, and that she'd give them a little bit of herself, in the form of a foot of her long blond hair.

"I read an article about it your paper last year, about someone who donated their hair to a friend who had cancer," she said.

Her mom, Carmen Bundick, called the National Cancer Society, which referred them to Locks of Love, an all-volunteer Florida-based non-profit organization that collects natural human hair and has it processed into custom hairpieces, for boys and girls.

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"When I called, I found out we needed at least 10 inches, and it couldn't have been chemically damaged in any way," Mrs. Bundick said.

To get enough hair to allow her to cut off a foot-long braid took almost a year, Mrs. Bundick said, adding that as the time for the haircut drew near, Amanda was not as enthusiastic as she had been at first.

"I was a little upset about my hair going, because it was like, my trademark. But it was for a good cause," she said, adding that one of her grandparents had cancer and she knew how painful it could be.

After deciding she had had it long enough, mother and daughter went to the beauty parlor together.

"I had it like in a rough ponytail. Then we measured it, and where the ruler topped off, we braided it into a pony tail and she cut it off," Amanda said. They didn't cut it off at home, she said, because the hair left on her head needed evening out in the back, so that it curled evenly at about shoulder-length.

And how long will it take to grow enough to donate again?

"About two-and-a-half years," Mrs. Bundick said.

Amannda won't know who got her hair because the Locks of Love rules prevent any linkage between donors and recipients, although there is a newsletter in which some recipients voluntarily pose with their new wigs. Amanda's own hair will make up only a part of the completed hairpiece, which will take 10 to 12 pony tails' worth of hair to complete.

Because it's an all-volunteer organization, the Locks of Love office in Ft. Lauderdale is not staffed full-time, but they do have a web site at www.locksoflove.org.

Information posted on the site says that it takes four months to make a high-quality human hair wig from some of the 12,000 bundles of hair that have been received so far. The site notes that most of donors of hair, like Amanda, are children.

Locks of Love requires that hair donated for wig-making be at least 10 inches long, because the manufacturing process uses at least two inches of hair. Shorter bundles of donated hair are used to either make wigs for boys, or sold at market rate to offset some of the costs of production.

Most of the children who receive natural-hair wigs are aged 8 to 17 and have been diagnosed with a medically-related long-term hair loss. Children who are under 8 receive synthetic hairpieces, because their heads are still growing.

But unlike someone who donates, for example, an old car to a non-profit agency, donations of hair are not tax-deductible because the Internal Revenue Service considers hair a body part. The organization does accept cash donations, which are tax-deductible.

Other questions answered on the web site:




- No part of any donation goes to fund salaries, because the group is an all-volunteer organization. If you call, however, be ready to deal with an automated attendant instead of a real human being. Accessing the web site is easier and includes all necessary information on how to donate hair, and how to apply for a wig.

- Indigent children get the hairpieces for free, but those who parents have means pay on a sliding scale. Locks of Love estimates that a real human-hair wig of the type it provides to cancer patients would cost $3,000 if purchased on the open market.

- The mailing address is Locks of Love, 2400 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 399, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 33301. The toll-free number is 1-888-491-8004.

Amanda Bundick still misses her "trademark" long hair, but doesn't regret donating to Locks of Love.

"It's for a good cause and you'd like someone to do it for you," she said.




Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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