In today's world, how we wear our hair as individuals is often said to speak volumes to others about our individual sense of well-being, self-confidence and more.
It's been the subject of Broadway musicals, of countless illustrations, paintings from all artistic schools, it is at the heart of a multi-billion dollar commercial industry, the focus of fits of anger and of pure celebration, and often is seen as having a revered spot on the family calendar under such headings as timeless as "beauty shop or hair cut."
Giovanna Loccisano makes a donation of 12 inches of hair to Locks of Love.
In recent years, thanks to the efforts of organizations such as "Locks for Love," a trip to the hair salon - or the barber shop - can yield a gift that when combined with other similar donations is handed to one person in the hope it will help strengthen them in a way few things can.
The absence of hair is now also often seen as a personal fashion choice.
Choice is the key word here.
Such choices are not available to millions of Americans of all ages - youngsters to senior citizens who suffer from one form of hair loss or another due to illness.
Imagine being six years old and facing a playground full of classmates sporting full heads of bouncy curls, of messy braids that were beautiful when they left the house that morning to head to school, or who are always being told to get their hair out of their eyes because it is so unruly.
Imagine what it is like to have a medical condition most people have never heard of like alopecia areata, or to have to undergo medical treatments so harsh your hair falls out in handfuls, as can happen to children suffering childhood cancers and the like. Even burn patients can benefit from these donations.
As a parent, you love your child and want to take away anything in their life that causes them pain or anxiety, but when facing medical realities such as these, the options to truly eliminate the very real pain your child feels can be very limited.
At times like these, there are resources which can sometimes be accessed to help in seemingly everyday ways - ways that when you are not in need of them are simply not the kind of things most people stop and think about in the course of an average day.
That is where programs like "Locks of Love" can come into play - connecting unique resources to a person deserving of a gift often considered literally be "a gift of love and of life."
All recipients of these real hair, custom made vacuum fit hair prosthetics and hairpieces are children ages six to 21.
Children younger than age six receive synthetic hairpieces, as they are still expected to do more growing.
A custom designed and constructed prosthetic hairpiece can easily be described as a labor of love and is a very real one-of-a-kind gift to be shared, and is considered as valuable as $3,500 to $6,000 were it to be sold on the commercial market.
Only donations of at least 10 inches in total length can be donated for use in the handcrafting process of making custom hairpieces for children, as these are exclusively. The need for hair donations is always pressing as it takes from six to 10 donated ponytails to make one hairpiece.
Another factor driving the constant need for donated hair of length is the reality that each hairpiece - no matter how well made - needs to be replaced every 18 months, and the hair can only be used once.
The reason for having a minimum length of ten 10 inches for ponytail donations that the manufacturing process uses up to two inches, leaving only eight inches. It is a length that hits the average person at about their jaw.
"Most of the children who receive hairpieces from Locks of Love are little girls, and most want long hair. When we need to provide a hairpiece to a boy, we use some of the shorter lengths that have been separated by hand from each donated ponytail," offered a Locks of Love official.
And while there is a major need for the longer hair donations, very little of the donated hair goes to waste, as many strands can be used for creating hairpieces for boys.
Locks of Love is an organization which is dedicated to helping both boys and girls, but the reality is there are far more girls suffering hair loss conditions than there are boys in the same situation.
Hair that is short, gray, or otherwise unusable will be sold to help offset manufacturing costs. "Locks of Love does not throw hair away unless it is wet and moldy or not bundled in a braid or ponytail when it is received," according to their spokesperson.
Yes, gray hair can be accepted as a donation, but it will be sold to offset manufacturing costs accompanying this child-focused program. Also able to be donated are color treated hair or permed hair, but bleached or some highlighted hair cannot be donated as the chemical reaction will cause the donation to dissolve.
Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. The organization meets a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure.
The organization's mission statement offers insight into their good works. "Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need."
Americans spend billions each year on haircuts, colors, treatments, styling and more; not to mention the huge commercial market addressed by products and services focused on hair removal or replacement or even confinement (such as an endless array of hair ties and clips).
A good hair day has always been something to be enjoyed - just for the fun of it.
My daughter has always been able to enjoy a beautiful head of long hair. She recently decided to donate - for the second time - nearly 12 inches of her hair.
Without fail, friends and family who have always seen her with long hair and commented on how pretty it was have been moved from the shocked response to a knowing nod of approval for her actions.
Yes, we are very proud of her generosity and thoughtfulness to not waste the hair she was getting cut - but the best part of the whole process was seeing the smile that swept over her when she was handed a neatly bundled ponytail to post in the mail and send to Locks of Love for another young person to enjoy as they go through the adventures of their daily life in the next 18 months or so.
Not to mention - she is having the fun of sporting a whole new hairstyle.
If you are considering making a dramatic change in the length of your hair, please consider connecting ahead of time to the Locks of Love website at www.locksoflove.org.