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Walnut group hair cut benefits Locks of Love
locks of love
Forty-one students at Walnut Elementary hold up their freshly cut tresses during a special morning ceremony on Wednesday. The hair will be donated to the Locks of Love organization and made into prosthetic hair pieces for disadvantaged children affected by hair loss. - photo by NANCY ANGEL / The Journal

When the girls of Walnut Elementary announced they’d be chopping their long hair into short bobs, they touched off a movement of sorts at the school. On Wednesday, 41 brave students gathered during a special opening ceremony and cut at least 10 inches of their hair to be donated to Locks of Love.

“It never ceases to amaze me how selfless and compassionate the students at Walnut are,” said 6th grade teacher Jamie Garner. “To grow your hair over a number of years with the sole purpose of bringing joy to a child in need truly makes me proud to be a part of this school.”

The charity will use the healthy tresses to make prosthetic hair pieces for disadvantaged children affected by hair loss. Originally started in connection with a for-profit wig maker, in December 1997 Locks of Love became a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children under the direction of Palm Beach County  cardiology nurse Madonna Coffman, who had personal experiences with cancer.

Over the past four years, 100 students from Walnut have chopped off their ponytails for the nonprofit organization. The idea was inspired by sixth grade student Gabrielle Sotomayor, who had a close encounter with cancer.

“My grandmother passed away when I was little kid from cancer,” said Sotomayor. “When I was in third grade I found out that my dear teacher Mrs. Williamson was also diagnosed. I wanted to do something to help the cause so I brought the idea to Mrs. Garner and she helped make this tradition happen. We’ve had girls who’ve donated their hair twice, including myself. Mrs. Williamson died last year and even though she last her battle, I still want to be able to help out other people.”

Stylists from Turlock salon Suddenly Perfect donated their time to cut the girls’ hair for free. Sixth grade student Jazzmin Garcia presented the idea to her mom Kathy Garcia, who’s a stylist at Suddenly Perfect, and she brought the whole team on board.

“When my daughter wanted to donate to her hair, I cried,” said Garcia. “These students are fighting for a good cause. I’ll continue to bring my team to Walnut and be a part of this tradition.”

“I am very grateful to Suddenly Perfect salon and the Sotomayor family for all of the time they have donated to making this project a success for the last four years,” said Garner. “ With over 100 ponytails donated, 41 from this year alone, we can be sure that this hard work has brought a smile to the many faces of the children who will be able to have hair again."