A cut for another
Kaitlyn Saathoff likes her new short hairstyle. But somewhere soon there will be a child who may like it even more.
Two weeks ago, Kaitlyn, 12, scheduled an appointment for a haircut so that she could donate her 10-inch ponytail to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children who have no hair.
Kaitlyn said a relative's cancer diagnosis inspired her to donate her hair. A year ago her second cousin, Andy Robbins, Bonner Springs, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
"At first I just wanted to get it cut off because I was ready to do it," Kaitlyn said. "Then I got the idea to cut it off for kids who have cancer because of Andy."
The 23-year-old Robbins, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, said he was proud of Kaitlyn. The son of Lisa and David Robbins, Robbins graduated from Tonganoxie High School in 1996.
"It's something she did on her own," Robbins said. "She's just a nice girl it was really nice what she did."
Without a doubt
After Kaitlyn decided to donate her hair, she and her mother, Missy Saathoff, searched the Internet. They decided that Locks of Love would be the best choice, Kaitlyn said, because it asks for 10 inches of hair, rather than the 12 inches that some organizations required.
For some girls Kaitlyn's age, the decision to go to short hair could have been grueling. Everywhere Kaitlyn went, people complimented her hair, her mother said. Kaitlyn's chestnut locks fell below her shoulders and glistened copper in the sunshine.
But the compliments didn't deter Kaitlyn from meeting her beautician aunt, Melanie Chapman, for a cut and style.
Minutes before her appointment, Missy Saathoff, photographed Kaitlyn in her ballerina clothes, taking one last picture of her daughter with her long hair twisted into a bun.
Kaitlyn, her mother and her brother and sister, entered the shop where Chapman worked.
"Are you ready?" Chapman asked.
"Yep," Kaitlyn said, grinning as she sat in the chair and held still as Chapman fastened a drape around her neck. In 25 years of cutting hair, Chapman had never before had a request like this.
"Only Missy's child would do a thing like this," Chapman said.
A new look
The haircut started at 2:45 p.m.
Locks of Love asks that hair be tied into a ponytail or braided before it is cut. Kaitlyn opted for one last braid.
Then snip snip snip. The scissors blades went to work.
Just 30 seconds later Kaitlyn smiled for the camera, holding the newly cut braid in her hand.
By 3:05, Kaitlyn's new do was taking shape.
"The end product is near," Chapman said.
The blow dryer hummed as Chapman curled and styled.
Kaitlyn was still smiling as she checked out her new look in the mirror. Only the thick braid on the nearby countertop and the short clips of hair circling the chair hinted at her recent transformation.
Children helping children
Cathleen Cason, executive assistant with Locks of Love, Lake Worth, Fla., said the organization, with the assistance of benefactors such as Kaitlyn, has provided more than 800 hairpieces. And, she said, the majority of all donated hair comes from children who want to help other children.
Most of the recipients suffer from alopecia errata, which is a permanent loss of hair. All of the recipients are under age 18.
The hairpieces are custom-fitted so they won't fall off the head.
"They have a vacuum seal that creates a suction," Cason said. "They can swim in them, play sports in them, do gymnastics in them, it's actually considered a prosthetic."
The hairpieces, which would retail at more than $3,000, are given free or charge, or priced on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.
"We provide hairpieces to families that would not be able to otherwise afford them," Cason said.
Well worth it
For Missy Saathoff, it was a bittersweet moment, watching scissors clip through her daughter's thick braid.
But because she had looked at the Locks of Love website, which shows before-and-after photographs of bald children who are now smiling as they wear new hairpieces, Saathoff said she knew her daughter's cut was for a good cause.
"When her hair was so long and beautiful, you think 'oh man,'" Saathoff said. "But when you think about the reason behind it there's not even a second thought."