Sardis Elementary ponytail drive helps create wigs for cancer patients

INDIAN TRAIL – Thanks to students, teachers and parents within the Sardis Elementary School community, at least three women fighting cancer will have the opportunity to have hair while undergoing treatment.

For the second year in a row, the school participated in “Got 8?” – a movement that encourages girls and women to donate at least 8 inches of their hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a nonprofit that uses the locks to create wigs for cancer patients.

While last year’s event was a joint effort between Sardis and its fellow cluster schools, Assistant Principal Kelley Zorn chose to focus this year’s Got 8? on the Sardis community. Last year was difficult, she said, because it was a huge undertaking to coordinate the event among multiple schools and schedule stylists to visit the school for a mass hair-cutting session. So this year, she decided to switch things up and try something new – a ponytail drive.

Zorn began by announcing the plans for Got 8? in late March, just before the students’ spring break. She encouraged students and teachers to have their hair cut outside of school and bring their ponytails in to be donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

“I was just hoping to see a couple girls donate,” Zorn said. “It was slow at first, but something about the ponytail drive got students more excited this year. I honestly was just hoping for around 10 ponytails, and they just started coming in, and it was great.”

As of Wednesday, June 5, a total of 24 ponytails had been donated, Zorn said, and she is still expecting to collect at least one more. Most of the donors were students, but several Sardis Elementary teachers, parents, one preschooler and even one teacher from Poplin Elementary donated ponytails, as well.

Fifth-grade teacher Chrissy Bloom chose to donate her hair for the first time in memory of her mother, who died of cancer in 1996. Although it was an emotional time reflecting upon the person whom she calls her “best friend,” Bloom said it also gave her a sense of empowerment to be a part of the event and see the students donate, as well.

“I feel fortunate just to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s just a very satisfying feeling.”

She added, “It just makes me feel really good, especially when (the students) say what their reason for donating is. Like when they know somebody (with cancer), or have heard of somebody, or just want to help somebody.”

Fourth-grader Megan Mossembekker’s neighbor battled cancer and lost her hair, which was a source of inspiration that drove her to donate her ponytail.

“I feel really good because I know I had a lot of hair, but since I cut it I know that someone else is going to have beautiful hair,” Megan said.

Other students, such as second-grader Kayla Hoover, also gave in to positive peer pressure and decided to acquiesce to their friends’ requests.

“My friends really encouraged me to do it, and it reminded me of my friend, Amber, who had cancer,” Kayla said. “…It makes me feel happy and makes me feel like I was helping somebody.”

And some, like fifth-grader Victoria Riabtseva, simply needed a haircut and decided to donate their hair to a cause rather than simply tossing it in the trashcan.

“I had been thinking about it and wanted to donate my hair because I was getting tired of it for a really long time,” Victoria said. “It makes me feel good because it’s like I’m helping somebody.”

The school threw a party on Wednesday, June 5, for all of the students and adults who donated their hair, and each donor received a purple Got 8? T-shirt, a certificate of appreciation, a special raffle prize and the chance to enjoy punch and cake. But Zorn said it wasn’t just about the celebration; everyone was excited to know they’re helping make life easier for someone going through a difficult time.

“It takes six to eight donors to make a wig,” said Zorn, whose mother-in-law is currently battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “That’s what I keep telling the students is that we’ve given three to four women this new opportunity to feel beautiful even through they’ve lost their hair.”

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