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Starksboro family promotes charitable hair cuts

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November 19, 2007

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

STARKSBORO — A Starksboro mother and daughter team are planning a charity event for May 2008. That’s far in advance for a relatively simple project, but what they have in mind takes a lot of time to prepare. Beth and Meghan Hahr are encouraging people to get their hair cut in a Locks of Love hair drive and donate the trimmed tresses to make wigs for children who have lost their hair for medical reasons.

Meghan herself has a wig like that. Now in sixth grade, Meghan found her hair falling out while on a family vacation about three years ago. The family eventually found she had a condition called alopecia, an autoimmune disorder whose side effects include hair loss.

“Your immune system thinks your hair follicles are bad,” as Beth described it.

Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization intended to contribute a sense of confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss from long-term medical treatments and disease. Some of the children need wigs due to radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer, but most Locks of Love children have alopecia like Meghan herself.

In some cases, a person with alopecia only loses patches of hair here and there, but some lose all body hair, even nose hair and eyelashes. However, the disease has no symptoms other than problems caused by hair loss, like a greater risk of sunburns if the scalp is bald or a more severe case of allergies if the nose hairs go.

Meghan said that for her, alopecia means losing patches of hair about twice a year. She is now growing back a patch of hair that she lost over the summer. 

Meghan doesn’t wear her wig as much as she did at first. Sometimes the hair loss is unnoticeable, and when it isn’t, she just has to pay more attention to how she dresses.

“I used to wear lots of hats, but this year I’ve been wearing bandanas,” she said.

However, sometimes there’s a different kind of problem. The Hahrs are planning the Locks of Love hair drive partly to help Meghan get ready for Mount Abraham Union Middle School next fall, and to get Mount Abe ready for her. Meghan’s friends at Robinson Elementary School already know about alopecia, but most of the other people she’ll meet at MAUMS don’t.

“If she goes somewhere people don’t know her, everybody thinks she has cancer, so there are a lot of questions,” said Beth Hahr. “There’s that trepidation about going to school in a new place where people are going to wonder.”

It’s possible to make synthetic wigs, but Beth said that wigs made of human hair are both cheaper and more versatile. “The wig my daughter has is human hair, and it can be washed and styled,” Beth said.

Locks of Love seeks donations of hair to make wigs. Their only guidelines are that the hair be at least 10 inches long and not gray or dyed. According to Meghan, several people in the area have donated hair to Locks of Love in the past.

Jenni Utter is one. A part-time nurse at Robinson Elementary, she has been growing her hair for more than two years now. She has donated it to Locks of Love three times now, and at 26 inches of hair, she’s ready to do so again soon.

It’s taken her a long time to grow that flowing mane, but she’s happy to donate it to children who are trying to cope with an unusual problem.

“I know it’s going to a good cause,” Utter said.

Hairdressers at Images for Guys and Gals, the Bristol salon, will be cutting hair at the Locks of Love hair drive next May, according to Beth Hahr, but so far in advance, they do not yet have an exact day for the event lined up.

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