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Island Coast students donate hair to charity

By Staff | Feb 18, 2009

Losing one’s long hair can be traumatic for some, yet 40 students at Island Coast High School had between 5 and 10 inches snipped to benefit Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children with long-term medical hair loss.
The Red Salon and Spa of Cape Coral sent three stylists to the school Wednesday to cut the donated hair — in braids of blonde, brown and red — and then offered free professional cuts in place of lost inches.
Arissa Pushon, a sophomore at Island Coast with long brown hair below her waist, was one of the last students to take the chair.
“I’m going to cry,” laughed Pushon as stylist Gina Ferraro chopped off 7 inches. “I’ve always had long hair.”
Even teachers and staff at the school donated their hair. Joe Mallon, an environmental science teacher, had 12 inches taken from hair that took three years to grow. He said he could recognize his hair on the table with the other donations.
Mallon and fellow teacher Cheri Sukovich organized the benefit for the good cause and to show the importance of sustainability in the school’s Academy of Natural Resources.
The academy enrolls 140 students from Lee County who learn about aquaculture, aquaponics, ecological restoration and management.
“Our focus is on renewable resources and to teach students to run a sustainable business,” said Mallon.
Mallon said he helped out Locks of Love for many years when he worked at Florida Gulf Coast University, but this is the first year the benefit was held at Island Coast.
He added that hair is a perfect example of a renewable resource because it grows back quickly.
The Academy of Natural Resources certifies students in production agriculture, GIS technology and horticulture. In the program, students raise cichlids and talapia, as well as learn to use aquaponics to grow tomato or lettuce plants.
“People think ‘tree hugger’ is a negative connotation, but we want that to go away,” said Mallon.
Students in the academy recently traveled to Koreshan State Park in Estero and harvested 320 bamboo plants for a mangrove restoration project at Bowditch Point, where plants will be grown in bamboo shoots instead of PCV pipes.
When asked Wednesday morning what Red Salon receives from the benefit, the stylists said, “We get the smiles.”
During a busy day, they said they cut between four and five heads each day.
Six of the 40 pieces of donated hair had been cut the night before, said Mallon, who explained that some of the students saved their hair and donated it Wednesday for Locks of Love.
Locks of Love provides hairpieces to children under the age of 18 who experience hair loss as a result of cancer treatment or alopecia, a disorder that stops hair from growing.
Each of the hairpieces would normally cost between $3,500 and $6,000 in stores, according to the nonprofit group. Each is vacuum sealed to a child’s head to prevent it from easily falling off.