Katie Carbone got a haircut on Friday. Her mother was optimistic about the new look, but her younger sister Emily had misgivings. When asked how she thought her sister would look, Emily wrinkled her face and answered without hesitation: “weird.”
However, unlike most haircuts, the aesthetic result was not the goal. Katie was getting her hair cut so that she could donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that accepts donated human hair and crafts it into hairpieces for children who have undergone medical hair loss, such as chemotherapy, but cannot afford to buy high-quality wigs for themselves.
Katie, a fifth-grader at Waynewood Elementary, has had long hair almost all her life. She had already been letting it grow for one and a half years when she learned about Locks of Love. She resolved to let it grow for one more year, so that she would be able to cut off the required 10 inches and still have enough hair to hang down to her neck.
“I had to fix it up every morning,” Laura Carbone, Katie’s mother, said. “I kept saying, are you ready to cut it yet?”
Terry Thomas, the stylist at London Bob Hair Design who cut Katie’s hair said that this is the fifth or sixth cut she has given to women who are donating to Locks of Love, all within the last five years. “It’s getting more popular,” she said. “It’s something pretty easy you can do to give back.” She said that most women who cut their hair for the program end up with a neck-length bob, although one woman went significantly shorter than that. She said that Katie would be the first child whose hair she had cut for Locks of Love.
April Boone, the manager of London Bob, explained that the stylist is responsible for sending out the hair. It needs to be clean, and then the stylist should braid the hair, cut it off as one piece, and mail the hair in a bubble-wrap envelope.
Custom-fitted wigs with real hair can be quite expensive. “You can do everything with them that you do with real hair,” said Thomas. The recipients “probably feel very blessed.”
“It’s more natural,” added Boone.
“This whole [Locks of Love] program is just amazing to me,” Carbone said, citing an episode of the Today Show, in which a child described her life with a lower-quality hairpiece. “She couldn’t go swimming and she couldn’t play basketball because her wig would shift.” Not only are the Locks of Love hairpieces more natural, they are custom-fitted to each child’s head.
Laura Carbone said that this altruistic decision was a typical one for her daughter. “Katie’s an incredible kid.” She described how Katie and Emily responded to Hurricane Katrina. They pulled vegetables from the garden and set up a vegetable stand with some friends. They eventually earned about $200, which they donated to the Good Shepherd Catholic Church fund for Katrina victims. “They’re just really, really cool kids,” Carbone explained. She said Katie is also teaching herself Braille and sign language. “But,” she added, “They are normal kids, they do get in trouble.”
Katie was stoic as her long tresses were cut and styled, but her mother showed signs of nervousness. “She’s going too short!” she would occasionally exclaim under her breath. But her concerns were allayed when Katie stepped out of the barber’s chair, her thick hair framing her face.
Katie said that she only “sort of” recognized herself but the new cut felt good. The last time she had short hair, she was in kindergarten.
But Katie was confident it was what she wanted to do. “I’d hear about other people who have this disability,” she said. Donating her hair “is a good thing to be doing.”