During the February, love is expressed in many forms.
It may be boxed chocolate, a sparkling card, flowers, or even a simple hug.
For two McPherson County women, love was shown through the donation of their hair. Laraine Erickson of rural McPherson and Diane Miller of Inman both chopped off their locks within the past few months and gave it to organizations that aid those who can’t grow their own.
Heart of silver
Erickson donated about nine inches of her hair about two weeks ago. She chose to give her braided bundle to Beautiful Lengths because they accept donations with gray hairs.
The 57-year-old said she has had long hair since she was a child, ever since she envied a relative with a long ponytail. It only was recently, however, she considered taking scissors to it.
“At first, it was just that I was too lazy to get my hair cut,” she said. “But then the longer it got, the more I decided I needed to do something here more than just throwing it away.”
Erickson had been a blood donor, but due to health reasons, could no longer do so.
“I always felt so good when I donated blood, and when I couldn't do that, I wanted to find something else to do,” she said.
Several of her sons have lost hair due to cancer. She also has a friend that has about three wigs of various styles and colors.
“I saw her completely bald headed and then put on a wig and saw her smile again,” Erickson said. “Women and their hair, that’s part of being a gal.”
She considered all of these factors and decided to donate her hair for the first time.
It took about two years to grow it out without bleach or color, as Beautiful Lengths requires. But this length of preparation still didn't prepare her for sitting in the salon chair.
“It was scary,” she said. “All of the sudden to have this short-length hair was like, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’”
A few days later, however, and the feeling of giving back overshadowed those feelings.
“It makes me feel kind of unselfish and good,” she said. “The older you get, I think you realize that life is fragile and that maybe you should do something good once in a while.”
In fact, Erickson is so confident in this feeling she plans to grow it out for another donation.
“I just hope somebody can be happy because they look like they have hair again,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Hair today, gone tomorrow
Diane Miller made her second hair donation in January. This decision came as she moved from Wisconsin to Inman when her husband became the new pastor at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ.
The first donation was a last-minute decision made at the suggestion of her hair stylist. She heard of her daughter’s friends donating to Locks of Love, so she agreed on the spot.
Her recent donation was very similar to her first. As she moved to a new location recently, she wanted an easy change.
“I’ve had my hair long, short, straight, curly and many colors,” she said. “Just about anything you can do to hair, I’ve had it done.”
In the past year, her hair grew from her chin to past her shoulders. Half way through this time, she knew she would donate it again.
“It’s sort of like an invisible donation,” she said. “My hair goes away and someone gets something good out of it. It felt pretty good.”
Hair donation organizations include Locks of Love, Wigs 4 Kids, Beautiful Lengths, Angel Hair Foundation and others.
In an informal survey, McPherson salons said they average anywhere from 5 to 25 hair appointments per year that result in donations to hair organizations like those mentioned above.
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel