Hillsboro teen harvests her locks for the sake of love

“I’m not that attached to my hair-it’s attached to me, but I’m not attached to it,” said Rachelle Scott with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

It’s fortunate Scott is able to part with her long hair because two days after her 14th birthday, she cut it to give to others in need.

Her light-brown tresses will soon be shipped to Locks of Love, an international non-profit organization. The goal of LOL is to provide hairpieces for children who are suffering from long-term medical hair loss, financially disadvantaged and under the age of 18.

“I watched a television program on it, and I felt like it would be a good thing to do,” Scott said about the organization based in Lake Worth, Fla.

“I wanted to grow it out and also (do it) for this purpose.”

Scott is an eighth-grade student at Hillsboro Middle School. Her parents are Chris and Melaney Scott, and the family of three lives on 10 acres located seven miles outside of Hillsboro.

Since fifth grade, she’s been growing her hair to a September length of about 25 inches, as measured from the top of her head. Before it was cut, it reached past her waist.

After making the decision about three years ago to grow her hair out, Scott told her parents of her plans.

Dad Chris said, “I thought it was a great idea to be able to help somebody else out and make their life more enjoyable.”

Scott researched the restrictions and guidelines established by LOL as follows:

– The donated hair must be at least 10 inches in length, preferably 12 inches.

– When shipped, it must be bundled in a pony tail or braid.

– Hair may be colored or permed but not bleached or chemically damaged.

– Hair must be clean and dry, placed in a plastic bag and mailed in a padded envelope to LOL headquarters.

– Hair is unusable if it has fallen on the floor. If cut years ago and stored as a ponytail, it is considered usable.

– Donors may be men and women of all ages and nationalities.

“It’s usually children who are helping other children,” Scott said. “It’s usually children who are growing out their hair for this purpose.”

Statistics show that 80 percent of LOL hair donors are children.

The donated hair is used to create “the highest quality hair prosthetics,” according to www.locksoflove.org.

“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 prosthetics we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.”

LOL was first started in connection with a for-profit wig company. In 1997, it became a non-profit organization. At that time, a retired nurse was inspired to devote her efforts to LOL when her 4-year-old daughter lost her hair.

The retired nurse collected donations and stored them in her garage until she obtained donated office space and located a quality manufacturer.

During the first year of operation, 21 hairpieces were produced. Today, more than 1,000 hairpieces are produced a year and more than 2,000 hair donations a week are sent to LOL.

Those qualifying to receive hairpieces are either not charged or pay according to their financial situation. They may reapply every 18 months for a total of up to five hairpieces.

The process of giving a hairpiece to a child takes between four to six months. The steps are as follows:

– A child’s name is recommended by a parent, friend or medical personnel. The application includes two letters of recommendation, a diagnosis, a photo and a copy of the parent’s most recent tax returns.

– Following acceptance in the program, the child is sent a molding kit and instructional video demonstrating how to make a plaster cast mold of their head.

– The cast mold is used to make a foam mold that works as a head block for the hairpiece. The head block is used to create a trial fit cap sent to the child for proper fit.

– The child chooses the hair color, length and skin-tone color of the prosthesis.

– Donated hair is sorted by length and shipped to the manufacturer. Short and unusable hair is culled from the donations and sold as revenue for LOL operations.

– Colors are blended and sent to a factory in Indonesia, where workers produce a surgical silicone skullcap colored to match the child’s skin tone.

– Each piece of hair is injected into the cap and sealed-a process that takes about eight to 10 weeks.

– The hairpiece is returned to LOL and sent off to the child. About two days after wearing the hairpiece, the child can take it to a salon to have styled.

A typical hairpiece would retail for $3,500 to $6,000. LOL funds received through donations pay for the manufacturing process of each hairpiece.

Scott celebrated her 14th birthday with a slumber party on Oct. 1. Two days later, her family celebrated her birthday, and her aunt, a beautician, cut her hair to just below shoulder length.

Why wait until her 14th birthday?

“I thought, ‘Well, my aunt is coming on Sunday anyway (for my birthday,) so why not do it then?'” Scott said.

Asked how she would feel if she were one of the LOL children without hair Scott said, “I would be frustrated and scared to show my face, because I wouldn’t know how others would react. So it’s a nice thing to be able to get a wig.”

Scott will not know who gets a hairpiece made from her hair, because LOL does not trace information like that. She said that’s OK with her.

“She’s a typical teenager,” Chris said of his daughter. “Besides that, she’s a very caring and giving person. She and her mom have been doing pet therapy together since she was 5. So, she’s been very focused on helping other people out. I see this as just part of that.”

For the past three years, she learned how to wash and care for long hair and if she had to do it over again, she said she would.

“I might grow my hair long again,” Scott said about the future. “Because I think people should help other people.”

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