Students donate hair to help cancer patients

Katie McMillen, junior in Engineering, gets her hair cut at the Illini Union for the Locks of Love charity. The donated hair is used to make wigs for cancer victims. I have this and I can give it, so I should, McMillen said. Beck Diefenbach

Katie McMillen, junior in Engineering, gets her hair cut at the Illini Union for the Locks of Love charity. The donated hair is used to make wigs for cancer victims. “I have this and I can give it, so I should,” McMillen said. Beck Diefenbach

By Angelina Cole

On Tuesday at 11 a.m. Katie McMillen, junior in Engineering, lost 10 inches of hair in the Illini Union. An hour later, Feifei Xue, junior in Engineering, lost 10 more. These two cases of rapid hair loss are not a result of a sporadic shedding disease, but the McKinley Health Fair’s Locks of Love donation drive.

The Locks of Love donation drive collects human hair to be made into wigs for children with cancer who have lost their hair during chemotherapy.

Katie McCarthy, junior in LAS, donated 10 inches of her hair last year at Allen Hall. Afterward, she decided that it was an endeavor worth campus-wide participation. McCarthy got the word out about the Locks of Love donation drive by sending e-mails and posting flyers on the Quad.

“The donations for Locks of Love have been successful,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to do more (donations) in the future because the interest is there, even with little advertisement.”

McMillen was coming out of her chemistry class when she saw one of McCarthy’s fliers. She then e-mailed her to set up a donation appointment for the drive.

McMillen lost a member of her graduating high school class to cancer one week before graduation. She hopes to make someone’s life a little easier with her donation, she said.

“In a class of 800 people who were very close knit, it was really hard to lose someone,” she said. “She (her classmate) embraced being bald at … 18 years old. I hope that I can give enough so someone who is too young to be that accepting can be more comfortable.”

McMillen, who was planning on donating her hair at the beginning of the summer, is not at all sad to see it go, she said.

“To see someone young and beautiful anyway embrace being bald is sort of a motivating factor for me,” she said. McMillen had also donated her follicles to Locks of Love at the beginning of her senior year of high school.

To donate to Locks of Love, the donor must have at least a 10 inch-long ponytail.

The hair cannot be bleached or chemically damaged. After it is cut, the hair is mailed to the address specified by Locks of Love. It is then made into a wig for children coping with cancer. McCarthy said it often takes more than one donation to make a wig, and usually donations can be made at Great Clips hair salons.

The benefit to Xue, other than saving money on shampoo, was doing a good deed for the day, she said.

“It’s a free haircut and an opportunity to make someone happy,” Xue said.

“When a kid is going through (chemotherapy), being bald is one less thing they have to deal with,” she said.