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Aside from time and money, hair also donated to help cancer patients

Oak Harbor hair stylist Naomie Robinson consults with 6-year-old Piper McMahan before a haircut June 1 at the Relay for Life of Whidbey Island event. McMahan
Oak Harbor hair stylist Naomie Robinson consults with 6-year-old Piper McMahan before a haircut June 1 at the Relay for Life of Whidbey Island event. McMahan's hair was cut as part of a hair donation drive to make real-hair wigs for cancer patients.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

Recognizing her age, Naomie Robinson wanted to prepare her 6-year-old subject for a dramatic change.

Robinson wanted to make sure Piper McMahan understood what was about to take place and brace her for any shock. She delicately explained that after the haircut, her hair would come down to about her chin, but would still look beautiful.

Then she explained the beauty of the gift itself.

“I asked her, ‘Do you know why I’m cutting your hair?’” Robinson said. “She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘We use hair to make wigs for sick people. She said, ‘OK.’ She was very shy.”

Robinson, a hair stylist at Carla’s Shear Inspiration in Oak Harbor, figures she made about a dozen such transformations at the Relay for Life of Whidbey Island last Saturday at North Whidbey Middle School.

“It was exhausting,” she said.

The hair donation program is called Beautiful Lengths, which is a partnership between Pantene and the American Cancer Society.

The hair is used to make real-hair wigs for women with cancer. Robinson lets the hair dry, seals it in plastic bags then sends if off in the mail. She said the hair is then bleached, then dyed various colors for wig use.

Robinson, a 1992 graduate of Oak Harbor High School, is in her first year on the organizing committee with the Relay for Life of Whidbey Island.

She’s been involved with hair donation programs such as Beautiful Lengths and Locks of Love for most of the 20 years she’s been a hair stylist. Locks of Love is a program that provides hairpieces to children suffering from any long-term illness.

“Both of my children donate their hair,” said Robinson, referring to Rebecca, 15; and Joshua, 12.”It’s a good way to serve and it’s a nice way to give women the confidence they deserve.”

For Beautiful Lengths, a minimum of 8 inches is required to donate.

That was no problem for McMahan and her long brown hair.

Jeff McMahan, store manager of the Oak Harbor Walmart, said his daughter had wanted to get a shorter haircut after one of her friends recently got one. He told her about the hair donation drive, which seemed fitting because his mother is being treated for cancer.

“She likes doing the relay,” McMahan said. “We camp out every year.”

Walmart’s team raised more than $5,000 for the Whidbey Island event. McMahan said it was due to his associates’ volunteering efforts.

He said a team of 50 associates applied for a volunteer grant to the Walmart Foundation.

“We’ve done that every year since I’ve been here,” said McMahan, in his third year at Oak Harbor.

More than $153,000 has been raised so far for the Relay for Life of Whidbey Island. A wrapup meeting will take place on June 12 from 5-7 p.m. at the Elk’s Lodge, however donations will continue to be tallied for this year into August.

Sabrina Underwood opted to give a piece of herself.

A business teacher at Oak Harbor High School, Underwood also participated in the hair donation drive, letting Robinson snip 12-inch long pony tails that took years to grow.

She has grown out her hair and donated it this way three times, but it still caught her students off guard when she returned to school Monday morning.

“There was a lot of surprise and shock,” Underwood said. “Even the kids who were mad at me for cutting if off, they agreed it was for a good cause.”

 

 

 

How to donate

For details on how to donate hair to benefit cancer patients through the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, go to the Pantene website at www.pantene.com and click on the Beautiful Lengths tab. Provided are step-by-step instructions on how to donate.

 

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