Dozens of people lined up for free haircuts at White Memorial Medical Center on Aug. 30 but what brought them there wasn’t a freebee, but rather the opportunity to give of themselves at the hospital’s first ever “Locks of Love” benefit event.
Nine-year-old Heidi Luengas was the first of 60 donors to give 10 inches of hair.
“I didn’t want her to [cut her hair],” said her mother, Maria Luengas. “A month ago I told her [about the event] and she got so excited, she wanted to do it.”
Maria Luengas, a Cancer Service Access representative at White Memorial Hospital, allowed her daughter to donate her hair because they have personally been affected by cancer: two of their relatives have passed away from cancer, she said.
The hair donated to “Locks of Love,” a Florida-based non-profit based, are made into hairpieces for financially disadvantaged youth under the age of 21. The donations benefit children with cancer and other illnesses—regardless of the diagnosis—that cause long-term hair loss, like Alopecia, according to Lauren Kukkamaa, communications director for Locks of Love.
Last Thursday, one moment El Sereno resident Dolores Riboli was at the hospital visiting her husband, a patient at the hospital, the next, she was sitting in a barber’s chair getting her long brown hair cut. Riboli said her 7-year-old granddaughter who recently donated her hair inspired her to donate her own hair. She called it “divine intervention” that she happened upon the event.
White Memorial doctor Sonal Patel, M.D., said she was in the fifth grade the last time she had short hair. “I was thinking about it for a long time … I heard about the program and decided to do it,” she said, adding that her mother and sister had previously donated their hair.
“I know it will go to a good cause,” she said.
According to White Memorial staff, it was the hospital’s first time participating in a hair donation event. It might also be the first annual, said Helen Mosley, director of cancer services.
Mosley said they organized the event in order to “do something to help.”
White Memorial called Locks of Love, looked up the hair donation requirements, coordinated the event, and will package and mail the hair to Florida, she said.
“The point is to build awareness, it’s a good cause for children,” Mosley said. “We opened it to everyone who wants to participate, whether they have 10 inches to donate or not.”
Twenty-five people pre-registered but by the end of the event 60 ‘locks of hair’ had been donated. Three men went bald for the cause and several others received haircuts, according to Alicia Gonzalez, a White Memorial spokesperson.
Monterey Park Resident Bryan Chagolla, 31, was among the men who donated hair.
His daughter was recently born at White Memorial Medical Center. He saw the event announcement on his way to the cafeteria one day, he told EGP.
“I was looking for an event like this. I haven’t cut my hair for three years. The last time I cut my hair was right before my wedding,” he said.
Chagolla, whose long hair reached halfway down his back, said he doesn’t know anyone who has suffered from cancer, but decided, “if I’m going to cut it, might as well give it to someone.”