6 lessons my tween learned when donating hair to charity

6 lessons my tween learned when donating hair to charity

Teaching tweens to give back is a goal of many parents, and many tweens choose to truly give of themselves by growing and donating their hair for wigs for cancer patients or others who suffer from hair loss. I was so proud of my daughter when she decided to cut and donate her hair.

She was only 6 years old when she first decided to donate her hair and to be honest, I wasn't certain that she'd be able to do it. After all, she'd cut her own bangs only a year prior. She stuck it out, grew her hair long and proudly donated. She so enjoyed it that she's done it two more times, with the third time being just recently. My tween learned a lot from donating her hair to make wigs for those in need. Below are some of the life lessons that have come with the process of donating hair.

1. Patience. It takes a long time to grow 8 or 10 inches of hair. Her goal is to donate enough to make one wig, which is at least 6 donations total. In five years, she's half way to her goal. I'm a bit surprised and pleasantly pleased that my tween has a 10 year plan for something, especially in light of the fact that she cannot remember what I said 5 minutes ago, but that's for another post.

2. One person can have an impact. My daughter's first grade teacher donated her hair and the day her teacher came to school with a short hair cut was the day my daughter decided she also wanted to donate her hair.  She patiently grew her hair and it was long enough a year later. In the years that have followed and as my daughter has continued to donate her hair, it has been fun to see some of her friends follow suit, and they in turn have inspired others. The domino effect that good deeds can have is awesome.

3. Gifts are given freely. When my daughter was ready to donate, a friend of hers had said she was also going to donate. At the last minute, though, the friend changed her mind and opted not to make the cut. While my daughter was disappointed, it was a good reminder that people need to do and give what makes them comfortable and that the best gifts and donations are made freely, not as a result of peer pressure or any other reason.

4. You may not know the impact you have. I posted a Facebook photo of my daughter's haircut and my friend Casey McCluskey, a breast cancer survivor, kindly wrote, "Please tell her just how much a former cancer patient appreciates such a generous donation! It means more to us than she realizes!!!" My tween was really touched by that and said that she thought that only the person receiving the wig would care. It was a wonderful reminder that a selfless act can have impacts we don't even realize (and a reminder that such an act does have to be selfless, and not just about attention or a response from Facebook).

5. Giving doesn't always have to be about money. My tween gave of herself, literally. It didn't cost a cent, but sometimes those gifts are the best ones.

6. How to research a charity. Selecting which organization will receive your donation is a personal choice. Read about them to decide what the best fit is for you, and if your tween is donating, have him/her participate in the research. This is a great chance to teach them how to make sure their donations are going to an organization that they can support. The American Cancer Society does not accept hair donations and refers people to Beautiful Lengths and Wigs 4 Kids.  Have them do a basic Google search. This article published in May raised questions about Locks of Love uses its hair donations. Check out CharityNavigator.org to start, but keep in mind that it only evaluates charities that file with the U.S. IRS. It includes a review of Locks of Love but not some of the other groups.

As a parent, I also learned a few lessons, including that my tween is often braver than I am.  This last time in particular I was a bit nervous about her hair cut, realizing that she's more image conscious now than she was the prior to times she has donated and I was fearing that she wouldn't like a shorter 'do. She was cool as a cucumber the whole time and confident in her decision. She loves her new look and I learned to keep my mouth shut and support her.

Information on Donating Hair

Please read the website of the specific group to which you or your tween are donating hair for their donation requirements. For all, hair must be in a ponytail or braid before being cut. Curly hair may be pulled straight for measuring.  It takes approximately 6 to 8 donations to make one hair piece.

You may also like: Volunteer ideas for kids on the National Day of Service
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