Ponying up for cancer patients

Woodland Middle School hosts "hair raiser" for Pantene's Beautiful Lengths campaign


“Raise your hand if you used a comb this morning,” said Carol Bracken, one of Woodland Middle School’s literacy teachers, as she addressed a group of students gathered in the auditorium last Monday. “Raise your hand if you used a hairbrush, hair product, or other styling tool.

“I’m asking you this,” Bracken continued, “so you think about how much you value your hair.”

On June 13, Woodland hosted their Pantene Pony-Up Hair Raiser — a unique fundraiser at which 53 sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls and five faculty members donated eight or more inches of hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program. Family members, local businesses and fellow classmates came together to support the so-called hair fairies at the festive event for a cause.

For the Beautiful Lengths program, Pantene partners with the American Cancer Society to make real-hair wigs for cancer patients who have lost their own hair due to various treatments they’ve undergone. The wigs are then donated to the national American Cancer Society Wig Bank — a place where those in need can receive one for free.

After losing several family members to cancer, eighth-grade English teacher Jennifer LaVolpe said she wanted to take action. She pitched her idea — that the Woodland community should get involved in the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program — to the school’s administration, who have been helping her plan the event since last September.

“When I heard about [the event] from another school district,” said LaVolpe, “I realized this is it — this is my chance to make a difference.”

When asked why she was participating in the hair raiser, sixth-grader Stephanie Giles said, “It’s a reminder that I can be a part of an active solution to a growing problem.” Similarly, sixth-grader Katelyn Entenman said she wanted to donate her hair so that those who need it can feel like they have one less problem while they’re fighting cancer.

Before “the big cut,” a social worker from the Winthrop University Hospital Breast Health Center spoke from experience about the deeply emotional struggle cancer patients face — and about how the side effect of hair loss can be an added burden. She commended the Woodland community for their generosity and commitment to helping others, adding that the hair raiser shows how deeply they care about the patients and their journeys.

Donning bright pink wings, the hair fairies made their way to the stage, ready for their individual sponsors to cut off eight or more inches of hair from each of their heads. After an energetic countdown from the audience, ponytails were chopped off.

Participants donated more than 40 feet of hair, school officials said. In addition, the students and faculty raised $626 for the cause.

Fifteen local and licensed hairdressers also volunteered their time to clean up and shape each woman’s hair. Eighth-grade students Emily Incammicia and Olivia Castillo couldn’t stop smiling after their cuts were finished.

“I’m in shock, but I’m really happy about it because I know I helped some people,” Castillo said. She and Incammicia both have family members who have been diagnosed with cancer.“My sponsor was a survivor,” Incammicia noted, “so I did it for her.”

LaVolpe thought this event would be especially significant to young girls. The students learned that they can give a piece of themselves and make a difference, she explained.

“I hope they feel good about themselves,” LaVolpe added. “I hope they know that they are brave.”