Ten-year-old Peter Jones is looking forward to the day when washing his hair means a 20-second shampoo.
That day is coming soon: next Tuesday, Peter will have 10 inches cut off his shoulder-length blond hair, leaving him with just an inch or two.
The hair will be donated to A Child’s Voice Foundation, which runs the Angel Hair for Kids program. Angel Hair for Kids provides wigs to children who have lost their hair and couldn’t otherwise afford a wig.
Peter lost his grandmother to cancer when he was three, and later a good friend of his mother’s passed away with the same disease. When a young neighbour donated her hair in April 2008, Peter was inspired.
It takes 10 to 12 ponytails to make each wig. The wigs are made overseas in Asia; each wig is handmade, and it takes many hours to knot thousands of hairs a few strands at a time. The foundation budgets between $800 and $1,000 to manufacture and fit each wig, which can include covering travel costs for the recipient to visit a specialist.
Many of the hair donors are children, but the foundation accepts hair from people of all ages, even grey hair. The requirements are that it be clean, at least 10 inches long, and not chemically treated. Wigs are shipped at a standard length and in a few basic colours, and can be cut, coloured and styled to suit the recipient.
A Child’s Voice supplies about 50 wigs per year on average. There are a number of causes of hair loss in children: diseases like alopecia, diabetes or lupus; chemotherapy and radiation treatments; and stress or trauma. One girl the foundation assisted had injuries to her scalp after being attacked by a dog.
It’s taken Peter two years to get the 10 inches required to donate, and his mother Caroline said she and his father David weren’t sure he’d get there. When it first grew over his ears, she asked him if he wanted to cut it, but he refused.
“We didn’t think he’d stick to it, but he proved us wrong,” Caroline said.
For his part, Peter said he never really thought of giving it up, despite being mistaken for a girl and the inconvenience of having to shampoo and condition it.
The hair isn’t the only thing Peter will be donating; he’ll also be handing over some $3,425 to the Canadian Cancer Society. He’s collected donations through a website, and appealed to Caroline’s workplace. He also agreed to jump in the family pool when it was a frigid 10 degrees Celsius on two different occasions, raising $100 from family and friends each time.
Peter is going to have his hair cut off in front of his Grade 4 class at St. Clement School during the Carnival for Cancer June 22.
“It’s going to be kind of strange for the first couple weeks,” after cutting it, Peter said.
“We’re so used to him having long hair,” Caroline added.