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Giving of yourself: Donate hair to cancer victims

By chriscal

Section: Features

March 28, 2008

“Watching her hair thin, and finally fall out completely, was so sad. She wears beautiful scarves and hats, but there’s something different about having hair, ” said Stacey Brusca ’10. Imagine visibly watching someone who is usually a bastion of strength go through their most vulnerable moments. For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, this is a sad reality. For Brusca, watching her pastor’s wife lose her hair inspired her to help. “When I found out that [my hair] was long enough to donate, I thought of her, and immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

How many times a day do we complain about our hair? It’s too limp, it’s too frizzy, it’s too long… I know it’s not only us girls who do this; we’re all guilty. But have we ever stopped to wonder how we could do something productive with this wasted energy we spend wining and actually donate hair to a cancer patient? Here’s the chance.

Wednesday April 9 Brandeis Orthodox Organization will sponsor a campus-wide hair donation event to benefit those suffering from hair loss resulting from chemotherapy treatment. In Sherman Function Hall from 10 am to 4 pm, Great Cuts Salon will offer free haircuts to those who choose to donate their hair to Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths. The hair will then be donated and made into wigs for the American Cancer Society. Already cut hair is also accepted at the event. All that’s required to donate is an 8 inch minimum of hair. Haircuts will take only around 20 minutes and participants can choose how they’d like their hair to be styled. Those interested can sign up by emailing Tamar Rock ‘10 at trock@brandeis.edu.

Most people complain when haircut time rolls around, but our hair will grow back, and Rock believes we should use this reality to benefit others in need. “I think it’s a really important cause because there are a lot of people who need the wigs and who really can benefit from it who have cancer themselves…so when you have the hair, it’s nice to give.”

BOO member Katie Schlussel ’10 agreed and believes that donating hair “definitely makes a really huge difference in the lives of people who are undergoing chemotherapy. You know, once you put that wig on, you can go out and feel just like everyone else. Not that you can forget you’re going through treatment [but] you’re able to look normal and kind of have a little bit of your old identity back.”

Schlussel added, “I just think that cancer really affects a lot of people whether it’s them individually or their family and friends, you can really personally relate to it. And also, a lot of members of the community have already donated their hair previously to become wigs, so Tamar thought this was just a really great way to have [everyone] not only the BOO community, but the greater Brandeis community [really] come together on something that is obviously really important to a lot of people on campus.”

Rock, who had already donated her hair previously, had been considering the idea of hosting such an event for about a year when she decided to make it a reality recently after winter break. Then came the planning. “There are so many people on campus who don’t even think about it, so to have an event where everybody can come together and do it together …is a direct way to do something helpful…”

The event is “both a way to acknowledge the damaging effects of cancer, while simultaneously acting as a way for students to be involved in helping to counter the effects,” Brusca wrote in an email. “ I love to think that my hair will be on a wig, given to someone battling cancer, a wig that will hopefully make them feel good about who they are and strengthen them in their fight,” Brusca added.

This week, members of BOO tabled in Usdan during lunch and Sherman during dinner to spread the word about the event. Tamar hopes for around 30 donors, and already within the first two hours of tabling in Usdan this week, 10 people had already signed up to participate in the event.

Rachel Ellman ‘11 is very excited about her first time donating hair. “When I saw that many organizations were sponsoring a hair donation event on campus, I was interested but initially very nervous. However, I realized that my hair would always grow back and since I had the ability to donate my hair, I should definitely do it.” Just reaching the 8 inch minimum, Ellman’s hair will be very short after donating, but she “think[s] it will be an adventure and I know I will feel good that I have contributed to a worthy cause.”

Both the Brandeis and Waltham community have responded enthusiastically towards Rock’s initiative. Hannaford’s and CVS are donating and several clubs on campus are co-sponsoring the event. These clubs include Waltham Group, Mitzvah Corps, BURP, Colleges Against Cancer, Student Peace Alliance, Save a Child’s Heart, and Tzedek Hillel. In addition, the event has already been publicized in the Waltham Daily News Tribune.

This positive reaction “really just shows the wonderful sense of community I think that is so important for people to have when they’re undergoing treatment and it also just shows the wonderful nature of our community at Brandeis that people are really able to come together and work together over such a great cause,” Schlussel said.

But don’t worry if your hair isn’t long enough, because there are other ways to become involved, as Schlussel explained. “If people also can’t donate their hair yet and want to get involved [through volunteering], that’s great, but we’re just so happy that people are really coming together over this [cause], and this is hopefully going to be a really successful event.”

Rock echoed these sentiments. “People are very enthusiastic about [the event because], they know it’s a good cause, and if they have the hair they love to participate and especially to do it together as a community just makes it all that much better.”

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