Children helping children; part of growing trend

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Lexi Sheets, 5, holds what used to be on her head. She got 15 inches cut off that was donated to Locks of Love. According to the organization, Sheets is one of thousands of young children willing to get the dramatic cut to help other children.

A 5-year-old Grove City girl is chopping it all off to help other kids. Turns out this is part of a children helping children trend.

Lexi Sheets, a Buckeye Woods Elementary student, got 15 inches of her hair cut off so she could donate it to Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children, under the age 18, suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

According to Lauren Kukkamaa, communication director for the organization, Sheets is one of thousands of young children giving up their locks.

"About 80 percent of our donations come from kids," she said. "It’s really gaining popularity."

Kukkamaa explained that most children who donate their hair have had personal experience and known someone who needed hair.

"It’s a different way of giving; by giving up a part of themselves."

Sheets decided to chop off her long locks in November of 2006, right after her mother, Lacey, cut 14 inches off her hair for the cause.

"Lexi asked me why I did it and I explained to her that it would go to sick children," Lacey explained. "She looked at pictures of kids who needed hair then decided she wanted to cut hers too. She’s been growing it out ever since."

Sheets said she likes her shorter hair and doesn’t miss her long locks at all.

"I wanted to help the sick kids," said Sheets. "It was fun getting it cut off."

Most of the children Locks of Love has helped, have lost their hair to the medical condition alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. Other children have suffered from severe burns, endured radiation to the brain stem or have other dermatological conditions.

Locks of Love creates custom hairpieces, made entirely of human hair. The hair must be at least 10 inches in length and be bundled in a pony tail or braid. Bleached hair cannot be used but permed or color treated hair can be.

"We can use hair from anyone," said Kukkamaa, "but usually children have hair in its natural state, which makes it ideal."

She explained that once the hair is donated it goes through a prepping or sterilization process.

"Bleached hair won’t survive the process."

Once this process is finished the hair is sent to the manufacturer, where they hand-assemble each piece. This process takes approximately four to six months.

According to Locks of Love, hair for the children gives them self-esteem and confidence. It allows them the opportunity to interact with other children comfortably. The organization began in 1998 and has helped over 2,000 children nationwide.

Sheets is glad her hair will help other children her age and she encourages other children to do the same.

"I would tell them to help the sick kids."

Sheets also raised money for breast cancer by participating in Walk for the Cure.

"I just want to help," she noted.

If you are interested in donating to Locks of Love, log onto www.locksoflove.org.

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