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In Kids & Family

Stylist Erica Grabczyk cut off 10 inches of Melissa Tempel's mane so she could donate it.

Locks of Love: blessing or scam?


These days, hair donation is a very popular altruistic act, both locally and in Hollywood where stars like Hilary Swank and Diane Lane gave their hair to organizations such as Locks of Love and Pantene Great Lengths, two charities that make human-hair wigs for people with illness-related hair loss.

Riverwest's Melissa Tempel had her long hair lopped off because she wanted to make a style change, but also because she's a mom who wanted to help children with cancer.

Originally, Tempel decided to give her hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization in Florida that makes wigs for sick kids, but was discouraged by some of the information she found on the Web.

Tempel thought Locks of Love gave their wigs for free to children with cancer and other illnesses that cause hair loss, but found out Locks of Love charges families on a sliding scale for the hairpieces.

After doing Internet research, Tempel decided that the organization is not forthright about their procedures, and believes the Web site copy insinuates the wigs are free.

"Don't get me wrong, Locks of Love is still an organization that does good for children who don't have hair, but it's reputation is based on false information. Instead of clearing up the myths, they are profiting from them," says Tempel.

Lauren Kukkamaa, Locks of Love communications director, says the organization is often misunderstood.

"We're a word-of-mouth organization that has benefited greatly from word of mouth, but also information changes as it goes down the line and gets misinterpreted a lot," she says.

Kukkamaa confirms that Locks of Love collects more hair then they can use, and sells the surplus hair to commercial wig companies. However, Kukkamaa says the organization sells the hair for two very important reasons.

First of all, she says, much of the hair they receive is unusable because it's either gray, dyed or too short. Locks of Love hair donations must be natural in color – but not gray -- and at least 10-in. long to make a hairpiece.

Also, Kukkamaa says Locks of Love is a charity, not a wig manufacturer, and so the organization pays $1,000 out-of-pocket per hairpiece, which is still much less then the retail cost of $3,500. She says the money they make from selling surplus hair helps to offset the cost of manufacturing.

"These hairpieces are very expensive. They are custom-made for each child. They fit like a prosthesis and have a vacuum fit so no one can pull it off," she says. "Children can swim and play sports while wearing them."

Kukkamaa says Locks of Love is legit – as did the Better Business Bureau --but Tempel, like many others who posted articles on the Internet saying the organization is a scam, remains skeptical. Hence, Tempel donated her hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a similar organization that makes human-hair wigs for women, but distributes them for free.

Erica Grabczyk, a stylist at Groom For Men, 330 E. St. Paul Ave., cut Tempel's hair a couple of weeks ago.

"I kept it long for about three years because my husband is an old school rocker dude and a fan of the rocker girl look," she says. "I humored him for awhile."


Talkbacks

jasmine02 | Jan. 12, 2011 at 12:43 p.m. (report)

Locks of Love is a great organization - whenever you donate anything, be it cash or hair - it is up to you to do the research ahead of time and stop being a victim. The true victims are those that need the hair and Locks of Love does that. You article, like most you write, are not exactly on the mark. You need to do your research too and stop always being so presumptuous.

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gfnana | Sept. 2, 2010 at 11:44 a.m. (report)

perhaps we are losing site of the goal. it is to good unto others. locks of love does it one way and pantene does it another. they both supply a need to those who have one. my husband received this kind of a gift from another organization that financially we could not have afforded. i have strived in my life to return that kindness in any way i can. since our financial position has not changed my choice is based on where i can do the most good. that is the point. both of these organizations are doing good. when u give something out of the kindness of your heart you don't question the person that u gave the gift what they did with it. u don't get mad because they used it for something u would not have used it for. if u want ur gift to go for something specific then u say that (example: red cross - hurricane katrina). if u don't or can't specify then u trust that they used it where they thought it would do the most good. a gift is just that. u do what u can and leave it at that. after that u have no control. u can't assume anything. u just do ur research and give where u think it will do the most good and know that u did ur best. u'll get worn out if u try to police everyone else and what is the good of that?

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LOLchild21. | Feb. 28, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. (report)

My daughter has received hairpieces from Locks of Love from the age of 10 at no charge she is now 21 and is still enjoying the last hairpiece she received from them before we found Locks of Love my child was constantly made fun of and other children would pull off her hairpiece in school she lived a very lonely life and was very depressed to the point she often would say she no longer wanted to live but through therapy and with Locks of Love my daughter regained her self esteem she graduated from high school and is attending collage and works she has accomplished a great deal for herself so weather or not some people understand what Locks of Love is about or weather they question how much a hairpiece cost a family and my daughter received 4 all free they should first and for most ask what is having alopecia or any other illness where a child suffers from hair loss costing the child even if we had to pay for the hairpiece I know it would not cost as much as having to pay for one without the help of Lock of Love has any one looked at the price of one of these hairpieces try any where from 5,000.00 to 10,000.00 so in conclusion I'm so glad Locks of Love has been a part of our life for so long and I'm so grateful for what the have done for my child I could never repay such kindness form the people at Lock of Love and the people who donate their hair weather the hair goes to a child or is sold to help a child in the end what makes the difference as long as it gives the child what they need to be whole again.

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pmacbee | Feb. 7, 2010 at 10:42 a.m. (report)

I think all the upset about Locks of Love has a lot to do with the fact that we do tend to first hear about it word of mouth, and assume we know what it is. I thought it was an organization that donated wigs to women with cancer. So I was upset to hear that they charge for wigs (from a friend) and then disappointed to learn that they only make wigs for children, and only those with permanent hair loss. And then I was shocked at how few kids they seem to supply with wigs compared to somebody like Pantene. But this is all apples to oranges, AND looking at it backwards. If I had started at their website, and I would have learned that, before Locks of Love, kids with permanent hair loss had the choice of (a) prohibitively expensive prosthetic hair implants, (b) standard (and expensive) wigs such as those made for adults, that can easily be pulled off (or fall off) during play, dance, swimming and other normal childhood activities, or (c) baldness. I would have known there is a huge difference between these custom-fitted, vacuum sealed, near-prosthetic wigs for children (who may need to replace them as they grow) and standard cosmetic wigs--and that that they are much more involved and expensive to make. LoL's lack of transparency to the Better Business Bureau does trouble me a bit, but presumably they'll get their reporting more complete and fix that problem. Having done my research I'll be donating my hair to adult women through Pantene, because it better suits my hair and my original purpose for donating--but I think it's important that people understand LoL's mission and the very different process it is involved in before calling it a scam. If I were a parent, I might consider whether to send LoL my child's hair or just a check, given that they seem to have more hair donations than they can use. My 10 year old niece just donated 14" of her gorgeous strawberry blonde hair to LoL. I REALLY hope it winds up on a child's head, rather than being sold to a commercial wigmaker to raise funds. But either way, she's helping a child.

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gemini_dagger | June 25, 2008 at 12:15 a.m. (report)

Not only is the Pantene Beautiful Lengths some nice advertising.. If you had read the Mission and Vision Statements, you should have seen that children receive the hairpieces free of charge OR are charged a sliding scale price based on financial need... And... Let's face it,...the non- profit organization does need some form of income to operate.. I don't recall being able to pay for anything with my hair... so they would of course have to sell what hair they can not use... in order to pay for workers, materials and so on... Oh, and I took the Liberty of pasting the mission statement below along with a link to the Locks of Love Website... I hope this helps... "MISSION & VISION Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need." ~Locks of Love Mission and Vision~ or you could just read it at: http://www.locksoflove.org/mission.html I have been donating to Locks of Love since I was 20, and I will continue to help children who have no bank accounts, no credit cards, or any means of which to support themselves.. I am from Louisiana, so I see many children that are at a disadvantage financially in my everyday life... It may be helpful for you to know that Locks of Love is not affiliated with, "any type of hair replacement product or hair care product. As a charity and strictly a charity, we must purchase the custom prostheses we provide for our recipients." Well, ... isn't Pantene a hair product company....? Hmmmm... ... I hope this helps those who read this. Please, visit the website yourself... and draw your own conclusions 0:)

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