<bt>As Waples Mill fourth grader Elena Johnson was leaving school last Thursday — Valentine's Day — her classmates were singing "good-bye hair, good-bye hair." The eight-year-old’s hair was hanging down to the middle of her back. But it was about to be 11 inches shorter.
After she left school, Elena made her way to Oakton’s PR Partners Hair Color and Design Spa. Alexandra Zanon, salon manager, had agreed to cut Elena’s hair for free. Even so, it was Zanon who was impressed by Elena’s generosity.
"When I first heard about it I thought this was such a selfless act for a small child," Zanon said.
<bt>Elena was planning to donate her hair to Locks of Love, a national organization that makes wigs for children who have lost hair for medical reasons, but can’t afford wigs themselves. Elena read about Locks of Love in the Kid’s Section of the Washington Post, and decided to start growing her hair immediately.
As Elena sat down in the salon chair she was slightly nervous.
"I don‘t want a bob," she said. "Just please, let it be a good cut."
The second Zanon cut off the 11-inch pony tail, though, Elena’s mood changed.
"I love this haircut," she said.
Natalie Bien, a friend and classmate who accompanied Elena to the salon, stayed by her friend’s side throughout the entire cut. Natalie giggled as she watched Zanon work.
"You are a different person," Natalie said when the haircut was finished.
Jennifer Johnson, Elena’s mother, said the girls wanted to take the pony tail to school the next day.
"I said ‘I don’t think so,’" Jennifer Johnson said.
<bt>Locks of Love asks that donated hair be clean and untreated by chemicals. The chemicals used in some hair processes might be harmful to children undergoing chemotherapy.
Locks of Love has existed since 1997, and in that time they have produced more than 600 wigs. Donors package their hair in plastic bags and tie the hair in pony tails or in braids; 80 percent of donations come from children, but adults are not discouraged from donating.
Before Elena, Zanon said she had given haircuts to several women who were donating to Locks of Love. But Elena was the first young girl who made the donation with Zanon. The Locks of Love Web site, www.locksoflove.org, lists salons that will donate hair-cutting services. PR Partners is not listed on the site, but Zanon is Jennifer Johnson’s regular stylist.
It takes around 15 10-inch ponytails to make one wig. So, Elena’s donation of hair will not make a full wig. But Elena will continue growing her hair, to make a donation next year. And she is recruiting her friends to start growing their hair as well. Jennifer Johnson said there are two girls in Elena’s ballet class interested in donating, along with a few others at Elena’s school.