Twenty-five girls and two faculty members from The Westminster School gave up a little more than time and energy April 13 to benefit the community. They each gave up at least 10 inches of hair for Beautiful Lengths.

Last September several sophomore girls approached their class advisor, Frances Fondren about finding a long-term volunteer project.

“They wanted it to be more involved than simple fundraising,” Fondren said.

After learning why Fondren had cut her hair off last year in honor of a friend with cancer, they discovered their mission.

“They did research about the different programs that collect hair for cancer,” Fondren said.

In deciding who should receive the hair, the girls determined the adult population because they still have to function day-to-day in public.

“They realized that helping an adult to do her daily life things was a worthwhile cause,” she added. “It showed great maturity on their part.”

Beautiful Lengths fit the bill. It is a campaign that encourages people to donate their hair to create free, real-hair wigs for women who’ve lost their hair due to cancer. It is sponsored in partnership by Pantene and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

Having identified a recipient of their locks, the girls decided to work with Fondren to take an educational field trip to Emory Winship Cancer Institute, a cancer research facility, to learn more about cancer and the impact of wig donations. Among the presentations, the girls heard from two patients with leukemia – one with a wig and another about to lose all her hair – as well as oncologist Dr. Amelia Zelnak and Elisheva Azani, the coordinator of the radiance boutique at Emory.

“They realized what a big difference this could make in terms of looking healthy,” Fondren said.

One of the two patients was a local high school teacher who had been diagnosed over spring break and had become hospital bound around the clock. She was in the middle of being fitted for a wig.

“Hearing from a teacher who said she would lose all her hair within two weeks really hit them hard,” Fondren stated.

Additionally the girls learned the cost of a real hair wig, $2,800, versus the cost of artificial hair, $500 and came to a greater understanding about why their donation would be so valuable.

After all was said and done, the girls made a trip to Jameson Shaw in Buckhead to receive their complimentary haircuts.

Candy Codner, owner of Jameson Shaw, agreed immediately upon learning of the girls’ mission to donate their hair to Beautiful Lengths.

“She saw the value in 16-year-olds making such a donation,” Fondren said. “She went above and beyond; made it fun for the girls.”

— C. Julia Nelson