Changing lives, eight inches at a time

Schools reach out to cancer patients through hair donation event

by Josh Whitener

INDIAN TRAIL – A collaborative effort between students, parents and teachers of Sardis Elementary and Porter Ridge Middle is aiming to make life a little easier for individuals battling cancer.

For the first time ever, the schools will host “Got 8?” Saturday, June 2, at Porter Ridge Middle from 10 a.m. to noon. “Got 8?” is a movement that recruits girls and women of the community with eight inches of hair to spare. Participants have their ponytails cut, donating the hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a charity that uses donated locks to create wigs for cancer patients.

Sardis Elementary assistant principal Kelley Zorn spent 10 years working with CAMP Care, a summer camp for children and youth battling cancer. Her grandmother battled cancer twice. But cancer really hit home for Zorn when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with Stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the fall.

“I saw her go through treatments and lose her hair, and I saw what not having hair does to your self-confidence,” Zorn said.

Zorn wanted to do something to give hair to patients like her mother-in-law, and to get her students involved in the project. She met with a group of Sardis Elementary teachers to discuss her ideas and goals for the endeavor.

“After day one, we knew we wanted to do it,” Zorn said.

The group received an event kit from Pantene Beautiful Lengths, full of information to guide them through organizing and executing the project. They subsequently reached out to several of the cluster schools. Some schools could not participate because of prior commitments and end-of-year busyness, but Porter Ridge Middle jumped on board.

So far, Zorn has 58 people committed to having their hair cut at the event. Participants will have their hair braided into a ponytail, and at least eight inches – they can donate more if they choose – will be cut. Afterward, they will have their newly cropped hair fine-tuned by a stylist.

“It’s great because girls doing this don’t have to pay to get their hair cut afterward,” Zorn said.

Four stylists have volunteered their time to be on site, ready to trim and perfect the girls’ and women’s hair after the ponytails have been cut. Zorn is grateful for their dedication and generosity, but needs more volunteers.

“Right now we have four committed stylists, and that’s not enough,” Zorn said. “My hope is to have (at least) 10 there, but the perfect number would be 15.”

Becky McAuley, of Totally Unique Salon in Charlotte, is one of the stylists donating her time to “Got 8?” Having known friends, family members and customers who have fought cancer in the past, McAuley is thrilled to use her talent and training to give hope to those facing such a difficult battle.

And although Saturday is usually the busiest day of the week for a stylist, McAuley isn’t worried about taking the day off.

“With enough notice, it’s not a problem for me to mark it off and donate (my time) elsewhere,” she said. “It’s not always about making money. To donate a little bit of my time is nothing compared to the reward that you get.”

One of Zorn’s future goals is to have more schools in Union County embrace “Got 8?” and make it bigger and better in the coming years.

“It would be great to see other clusters embrace it and say, ‘We could do this!’” she said.

She also hopes to eventually expand the event and transform it into a family fun day, incorporating music, refreshments and fun activities.

“I know I’m setting my sights a little high, but I would love, in a couple years, for it to be a ‘fun day,’ and for everyone to be a part of it,” Zorn said.

For this year, Zorn just hopes the community can embrace how a simple donation can have such a huge impact on cancer patients.
“Whether you are 6 years old or 65 years old, you can change lives by just growing your hair out,” she said. “We’re literally changing lives eight inches at a time.”

WANT TO HELP?

Got 8 needs trained, talented stylists to make the event a success. Stylists interested in donating their time and effort for a good cause can contact Kelley Zorn at kelley.zorn@ucps.k12.nc.us. Got Hair? Those wishing to donate can also contact Kelley and then show up between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday, June 2, at Porter Ridge Middle School, 2827 Ridge Road, Indian Trail.

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