Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization that uses donated hair to make hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children under 21 who have lost their hair from any long-term medical condition. Alopecia and cancer are the top two afflictions of those who receive the hairpieces, though incidents such as traumatic burns and dog attacks can also qualify.
Lei and her older daughter Joyce, who will enter Hart Middle School this fall, first donated their hair in 2011. Joyce, 8 at the time, initially struggled with cutting her hair so short. Her point of view changed, however, when Lei talked to her about how important the goodwill of others had been in Joyce's own life.
"Right after she was born, she got a very serious infection and was in the intensive care unit for four weeks," said Lei. "At that time, I was a student and my income was very low, so the government covered everything, and it was a huge help. I told Joyce what people did for her when she was little, and she was touched and said she definitely wanted to donate her hair."
After donating, they immediately began regrowing their hair in preparation for their second and latest donation. The two were joined this time by Crystal, age 6, who attends Fairlands Elementary School. Like Joyce at a younger age, Crystal was initially reluctant to give up her dream of "being Rapunzel," but she left the salon happy and proud of herself, saying that she wanted to cut her hair even shorter the next time, said Lei.
Crystal donated 10 inches of her hair while Lei and Joyce donated at least 12. Both of the young girls plan to give back to the community even more by volunteering at the hospital as soon as they are old enough, a choice influenced by their father's research in cancer at UCSF.
"For my daughters, at their age, they only get things -- they don't give. They are both Girl Scouts, and they do sell cookies, but they don't really have much concept of giving things," said Lei. "Gradually, they will start to have the concept in their mind, so that when it is their time to be able to help, they will be so ready."
The hair prostheses created by Locks for Love are custom-made and have a retail value of between $3,500 and $6,000, but Locks of Love provides them for free or on a sliding scale, depending on the child's financial need. Children must apply or be nominated to receive a hairpiece.
Donors can cut their hair anywhere, but going to a participating salon often helps the process go more smoothly. The donation must be a braid or ponytail of at least 10 inches, which the donor can mail to Locks of Love.
For more information on donating, receiving a hairpiece or volunteering, visit www.locksoflove.org or call (561) 833-7332.