Loving her locks

Rachel Alexander cuts off 20 inches of hair for child cancer victims

No more shutting it in the car door, squeezing through a bottle of conditioner in a week or spending a half hour blow drying hair that reaches past her lower back.

Nope, Rachel Alexander is now free of 20 inches of chocolate brown tresses.

"I wanted to have a cool summer haircut, and then I just decided I want to get so much cut off that I should just donate it," Rachel, 15, said.

So that's what she did.

Cosmetologist Sarah Walker of KnezOvations whacked a thick ponytail of Rachel's hair off Wednesday evening and then gave her the summer 'do she was looking for. The hair will be sent to Locks of Love.

Despite a few tears after the initial cut, Rachel couldn't seem to stop saying, "I really like it," once Walker worked her magic.

Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization, provides hairpieces to children younger than 18 with long-term medical hair loss. The organization estimates 80 percent of its donations come from youths, like Alexander, who want to help other children.

"It helps little kids in need," Rachel said. "That way they don't get made fun of. It's really hard to have cancer and not have hair."

Rachel said she also wanted to donate her hair because cancer is prevalent in her family -- her maternal grandmother and great-grandmother had cancer, as did Rachel's mother, Carla Alexander.

Carla battled uterine cancer seven years ago and survived with a hysterectomy but no radiation or chemotherapy.

"I was actually pretty lucky," Carla said.

That history is the family's motivation for also being involved with Craig's first Relay for Life, slated for July 20 and 21. Carla is the event's co-chair, and she hopes Relay will raise money for continued research and possibly cures and vaccines.

"Another goal is to bring the community together for this ... and realize that no one has to go through this alone," Carla said.

Walker supports the Relay by donating haircuts as prizes, as she donates cuts for those donating to Locks of Love. Her niece died at 16 after a five-year battle with leukemia.

"Everyone thinks it won't happen to them or to their family, and then it does," Walker said.

For cancer victims, having hair and not being viewed as different is important, Walker and Carla agreed.

"A lot of people consider their hair part of their identity, so a lot of people who have cancer and lose their hair feel like they've lost part of their identity," Carla said.

She expects losing Rachel's hair is hard for the Moffat County High School freshman as well.

"I think it's a very selfless act, and I think it takes a lot of courage for a teenager girl to do that," Carla said.

But by the end of the haircut, Rachel did not seem worried at all, excited to show off her "10 pounds lighter" haircut to her friends.

"I'm glad I did it, and I'd do it again," Rachel said. "Some little kid can go out and have fun like a normal kid now."

For more information on Locks of Love or how to donate, visit www.locksoflove.org.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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