Changing the world one ponytail at a time

by Morgan Smith

First-grade Emma Urso, left, and second-grade Emily Honbarger pose with their freshly cut ponytails at Dolce Lusso in the StoneCrest shopping center. The girls donated their hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths to provide wigs for cancer patients. Photo courtesy of Carmel Christian School

Four girls from Carmel Christian School and two of their teachers are going to great lengths to help others in need.

Previously sporting long locks of hair hanging well past their shoulders, the girls now sport bouncy ear- and shoulder-length dos, just in time for a fresh summer look. But the real reason these girls teamed up was to provide wigs for cancer patients and others in need.

First-graders Emma Urso and Caroline Purdie, second-grader Emily Honbarger and fourth-grader Kelley Topiwala, along with their teachers Shawna Kneisc and Bethany Baker all had at least 8 inches of hair a piece cut for Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a program under the hair-care company, Pantene Pro-V. The program donates wigs to people who need them the most. One wig typically takes six ponytails, and the organization has specific requirements on types of hair that can be donated, such as hair that is free of permanent color, bleach or other chemical treatments, and less than 5 percent gray.

Kneisc, the teacher who encouraged students to cut their hair for the cause, said she has donated her hair at least five or six times in the past, typically to Locks of Love, every two years. She said she wanted to get students involved because it’s another way for them to show Christ’s love. This year, Kneisc decided to donate the hair to Pantene because the organization donates the wigs to people in need.

“I had the opportunity to do this for about four and a half years when I taught at Antioch Elementary and it’s just a great way to teach the students something else they can do that’s out there,” Kneisc said. “And coming to Carmel, we get to teach them the Christ-aspect of it, which is giving back and really showing the world his love.”

The group made appointments at Dolce Lusso in the StoneCrest shopping center, where hairdressers even donated their services for the cause.

Photo courtesy of Carmel Christian School

“They did all the cuts for free,” Kneisc said. “They were very generous and accommodating.”

Kara Ward, general manager of Dolce Lusso, said the salon usually sees a spike in hair donation cuts in the spring.

“This time of year we seem to get more,” she said, “and our stylists recommend that people with long hair do this because it’s just a good cause, and most of the time, our customers are happy to do that.”

Ward said she was happy to have the Carmel Christian group at the salon, especially the kids because it takes a lot of courage to cut off that much hair.

“It’s kind of emotional, actually,” she said, “and they have to be so brave – hair is such a security blanket for kids.”

Kelley Topiwala has donated her hair twice before, once in kindergarten and then again in second-grade. This time, her hair was so long, she was able to donate 10 inches.

“I like to help people a lot and give them hair,” Kelley said. “People with cancer need my hair.”

Kelley’s hair grew for two years before she cut it. She was a little nervous, mostly about having short hair again.

Kneisc said more students at Carmel Christian were interested in participating in the cause, but were reluctant to cut their hair really short. She hopes having other students participate will break the barrier for other girls and encourage more students to participate.

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