WESTLAKE, Ohio — It’s called our crowning glory, but not everyone may fully appreciate what it means to have a head full of luscious locks.
Lauren Tafuri hasn’t had her hair cut for nearly two years.
“You get to that point where you’re like, enough,” she said during her haircut Friday afternoon, her first since the pandemic.
She took a lot off.
“If I’m going to have long hair it seems so wasteful to see it cut down on the floor,” she said. That’s why she’s donating her locks to Westlake-based Wigs for Kids.
For a year, donations to the non-profit stopped as salons closed, and people started an unprecedented era of hair growth.
“During the pandemic obviously [people were] not getting their hair cut or colored. We were able to see an increase once everything kind of opened up a little bit more,” said Wigs for Kids founder Jeffrey Paul.
He founded the organization 45 years ago with the goal of making a single hairpiece for his niece who had been diagnosed with cancer. Now, Wigs for Kids makes custom hairpieces for kids dealing with hair loss around the world.
“Imagine being a child bullied because they have hair loss from alopecia, cancer, trichotillomania or any type of medical hair loss,” he told News 5. Once those kids get their free wigs, “their lives have been transformed.”
It’s a transformation Bella Capelli Sanctuario stylist Courtney Collings is thrilled to participate in. “It’s just such an awesome experience,” she told News 5 during Tafuri’s cut. She estimated she’s done about 50 Wigs for Kids cuts. “It’s such a beautiful experience…you’re giving a physical piece of yourself to this person so that they can love what they see when they look in the mirror.”
Tafuri has given that piece of herself three times now. She knows her donations are changing lives. “I’ll see the videos online and stuff and just the pure joy when they’re opening the box,” she said. “It feels amazing.”
She’s talking about videos like Taylor Gravagna’s, which was seen more than 500,000 times when Wigs for Kids shared it three years ago.
“Every day when I came home, I was like ‘is it here yet,’” Taylor said.
Now, 13 years old, Taylor still remembered the first time her mom took her to the grocery store once she had a wig and realized, “nobody stared at me this time!” And we’re not just talking curious kids who couldn’t take their eyes off another child’s bald head. “It’s when the adults are open-mouth staring at me,” that rubbed Taylor the wrong way.
Even so, Taylor is just as inclined to go without her wig these days. “95% of the time, even in 7th grade in middle school, she goes bald and beautiful,” said Taylor’s mom Sheila Gravagna. But Gravagna knows Taylor’s story isn’t every child’s experience. “A lot of these kids are not as confident as Taylor, so they really rely on these wigs every single year.”
That takes a whole lot of hair.
“It takes 20 to 25 people’s ponytails to make one hairpiece,” said Paul. It’s a process that takes more than 80 hours. The hair is “hand-tied into a piece designed like a prosthetic” for each individual child, measured to fit their head perfectly.
By the time Tafuri’s hair makes it into a completed wig, three to six months will have passed. But along the way, every person involved will have had the chance to feel like they’re part of something so much bigger than a haircut.
“You are actually changing the world one head of hair at a time,” said Collings. “It’s a magic thing.”
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