Kind cut: OESJ hosts ponytail drive to help create wigs

OPPENHEIM – Mothers, daughters friends and teachers waited anxiously to get 8 inches of their hair cut Tuesday in the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Elementary School cafeteria.

For most, the anxiety was due to the excitement that comes from donating to a good cause.

Fifth-grader Shalena Sargeant waited to donate 8 inches of her long red hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths via OESJ’s eighth annual ponytail drive Tuesday.

Valerie Sargeant, Shalena’s mother said, “I’m absolutely proud of what she’s doing.”

Donated hair is used to create wigs that are distributed for free through the American Cancer Society.

The district had 21 people scheduled for haircuts. Everyone in the community and the school district were invited to attend and receive a free haircut that doubled as a donation.

Sarah Jewett, an English teacher at OESJ, and Kristy Shafer, who is now the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Agriculture Pathways in Technology Early College High School principal, started the event eight years ago.

“Sometimes friends do it and support each other. People are very emotional about their hair,” Jewett said.

She explained how losing your hair is one of the most dreaded side effects of chemotherapy.

“Having a wig makes them look and feel good. It’s great to help so many people,” Jewett said.

Shafer and Jewett have been donating their hair together every other year. Skipping a year gives their hair enough time to grow the 8 inches needed to donate.

Shafer said the first time she donated was in college. A friend died from cancer and she’s been donating ever since.

“It’s most definitely been a success every year.” “It becomes a very family event,” Shafter said.

Linda Bowers and her daughter, Anna Bowers, have been donating every other year since the event started.

Linda said a godmother in their family had died of breast cancer and needed a wig.

“We ended up doing it together and we’ve been doing every other year since,” she said.

Anna’s grandmother had recently died of cancer, and this year the two were donating in her honor.

Jewett said they wait to hold the event after prom each year. She said many of the older girls are most likely to donate after prom. The district will have donated approximately 150 ponytails after Tuesday’s ponytail drive.

All the hair collected will be mailed to Pantene Beautiful lengths with an index card with the donor’s name. Each person who donated will receive a thank-you once their hair has been distributed to create a wig.

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