By Katie Fallon
Cheered on by her second-grade students, High Point Elementary teacher Jennifer “Barbi” Kreidler had 10 inches of her hair cut off during a May 21 school assembly for a donation to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides wigs and hairpieces to children who have lost their own hair due to a medical condition like alopecia or from cancer treatments.
In addition to having several friends and former coworkers who’ve been affected by cancer and a subsequent loss of hair, Kreidler said she was also motivated by a need to be an example.
“I’m really big on giving back,” Kreidler said. “I think if you contribute to your community, that the community is a better place. If I don’t do it, then I’m not a good example for everybody else.” Now a resident of Sandy Springs, Kreidler formerly resided in Buckhead.
Kreidler, who just completed her first year at High Point, said she knew about Locks of Love through word-of-mouth and some other teachers who have made similar donations. She said she did not think about making a donation until just a few months ago when friends and coworkers started commenting on her nearly waist-length hair.
“I’ve always had long hair just about past my shoulder,” Kreidler said. “For the past year and a half, I’ve let it go and I didn’t realize it.” But, when she looked in the mirror, Kreidler decided she no longer wanted hair that long because of the daily care and frequent tangles.
Kreidler said, after first learning about Locks of Love, she was not sure she was ready. “I didn’t really start to think of it until four to six months ago. I didn’t think my hair was long enough.”
When Kreidler started wearing a homemade Locks of Love t-shirt to let her students and fellow faculty know about her upcoming haircut, she said several students and teachers told her about their own contributions to the organization.
At the May 21 assembly, Kreidler’s regular hair stylist, Tony Voorhees, took his scissors to roughly 30 inches of hair that hung down to Kreidler’s lower back. After explaining the meaning of Locks of Love to her students, Kreidler sat nervously as the youngsters cheered her on and Voorhees cut her hair section by section.
Voorhees said his salon owner frequently participates in Locks of Love causes because the owner’s daughter died of melanoma and needed a wig while receiving her cancer treatments.
“She lost her hair and it was very heavy for her,” Voorhees said.
The recipients of Locks of Love hairpieces are those whose families who cannot afford professional wigs that can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
A stylist for the DASS Salon & Spa in the Perimeter Mall, Voorhees said he was more than happy to do Kreidler’s Locks of Love cut because in addition to having done them before for other clients, he has also styled the hair of clients who have begun to lose their hair due to cancer treatments.
One youngster who eagerly looked on as Kreidler took the plunge was 11-year-old Troy Hightower, who was a fifth grader at High Point this past year. Hightower said she is currently growing her shoulder-length curly hair out after learning about Locks of Love from her friends and through Kreidler’s donation.
“I thought [Locks of Love] was really cool because my uncle had cancer,” she said. “I know how it feels because his hair started falling out.”
Hightower said she suspects by the end of the summer, her hair will be long enough to donate.
Since its inception in 1998, Locks of Love has helped more than 2,000 children. The organization helps children 18 years old and younger by providing custom, vacuum-fitted hairpieces made entirely from donated human hair. The pieces are provided free of charge or on a sliding scale. It takes roughly four donations to make one hairpiece and the entire process from donation to assembly takes from four to six months. According to the organization, children comprise 80 percent of the organization’s donors.
To learn more about Locks of Love and how to donate, visit www.locksoflove.org.