Locks of Love is an organization that helps makes wigs and prostheses for children and teenagers 21 and under with conditions like alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, and brain cancer.
“As long as I’m able to produce [hair], I might as well do something with it,” DeBaets said.
Alfaro just donated eleven inches of her hair to Locks of Love for the first time two weeks ago. She had planned to donate for a while, growing her hair out and only cutting off split ends to get her hair to the required length of 10 inches for LOL.
“And then I just cut it all off,” Alfaro said. “When I was younger, I saw pictures of those girls without hair…who had cancer. And then I felt bad so I was like ‘Why not?’ [My hair]’s going to grow back for me anyways.”
DeBaets started donating her hair to LOL when she was in fourth grade, when her mom pestered her to get a haircut. The only way her mom would allow her to keep growing her hair out was if she promised to donate it. Since then, she has donated her hair two times—once in seventh grade to LOL and then in ninth grade to Pantene.
“One thing that’s pretty unique about [my hair] is the color,” DeBaets said. “I think it would be funny to be walking along one day and see someone with the my same color hair…I seriously doubt I’d stop someone and be all like ‘Hey do you have my hair?’ But that’s something that goes through my head when I give [my hair] away.”
Yet for Alfaro and the experienced DeBaets, parting with 10 inches of hair is still a scary experience.
“I was sitting there and [the stylist] was cutting my hair and she put it on the counter and I was like ‘Oh no!’,” Alfaro said. “It felt like my body part was missing.”
“[The stylist] sort of pulled [the ponytail] taut and…[the hair] releases as [the stylist is] cutting through it,” DeBaets said. “It’s really kind of freaky because you’re like ‘It’s all gone!’”
“It’s all gone,” Alfaro chimed.
It takes a few weeks to get used to it all being gone. Alfaro is still “recovering”.
“When you’re brushing your hand through your hair, you think it keeps going but it stops,” Alfaro said. “After the shower, I usually put my hair up in a towel. Now I try putting it up and there’s nothing to do. Same thing with field hockey, putting my hair up into a ponytail, it doesn’t work very well. It’s kind of embarrassing.”
Alfaro and DeBaets, in accordance with the LOL guidelines cut their hair in a ponytail and mailed it off to the organization. They do receive a thank you note, but never get to see what happens to their hair.
“You just send it off and never hear anything about it [again],” Alfaro said.
“I mean, you get a thank you, but you don’t get a note saying ‘Here is the child who has your wig on right now,” DeBaets said.
Regardless, the two are still planning to donate to LOL in the future. Recognition doesn’t make it or break it for Alfaro and DeBaets.