By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Nov 12, 2007 at 5:14 AM

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.”

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.