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Lots of hair for Locks of Love
Lots of hair for Locks of Love

Date published: 12/4/2007

by Hugh Muir

Celeste Pettyjohn's hair measured 55 inches from the top of her head to the tip of her tresses. It had been growing uncut for six years. Two worthy causes beckoned: Locks of Love, a charity that helps children who have lost their hair, and her school's support for South African schoolchildren. It was time for a haircut.

Pettyjohn has been a teaching assistant at the Stafford campus of Fredericksburg Christian Schools for the past two years. She also is a licensed ship's captain--actually a third-generation ship's captain--and has commanded, among others, the Cherry Blossom, a stern-wheeler tour boat out of Alexandria that plies the Potomac River.

Her light brown hair has been cut twice in the past 16 years. She had grown it for 10 years before It was cut in a Reston salon. That resulted, she said, "in a disaster." After that, she carefully nurtured it and just let it grow.

A friend and fellow teacher at Fredericksburg Christian Schools, Heather Wright, recommended her stylist, Sarah Andersen, at the Curves salon in Manassas. Pettyjohn went and looked and made an appointment for last Thursday. Andersen, a stylist for 10 years, also is a supporter of Locks of Love.

It was a perfect match.

The tresses from Pettyjohn's previous haircut had been donated to Locks of Love, a nonprofit charity organized in 1997 and based in Florida. The hair it receives is used to weave wigs for children who have lost their own hair through radiation therapy, severe burns, trauma or disease. Clients range in age from 6 to 18 years old.

The Manassas appointment took an hour and 10 minutes. The hair was banded into three ponytails, each 30 inches long. When these were cut, Pettyjohn was left with 2-foot-long hair. Her new style was then shampooed, blow-dried and repeatedly combed and brushed and fluffed.

"She's going to make somebody very happy." Wright said. "Usually, it takes up to 12 ponytails to make one wig. The three from Celeste should make one by themselves."

How did Pettyjohn feel after it was over? "Much lighter," she said, and smiled in the mirror.

The next day, at the students' morning chapel, Pettyjohn got a round of applause.

Her haircut also was a fundraiser for one of the school's major sponsorships abroad, tuition support for black South African students. A year's tuition is $360. For each student's donation in honor of The Cut, a colored paper scissors went on the bulletin board. Different color, different amount, from $1 to $20. In the last three weeks alone, $356 was raised.

Hugh Muir: 540/735-1975
Email: hmuir@freelancestar.com

Locks of Love was organized in December 1997 as a nonprofit charity by Madonna Coffman, who in her 20s had contracted alopecia, which causes baldness. She recovered, but when her 4-year-old daughter later developed the same disease (and also recovered), she quit other charity work to devote full time to Locks of Love.

The requirements for donations are:

The minimum length needed for a hairpiece is 10 inches.

Hair must be in a ponytail or braid before it is cut.

Hair that is colored or permed is acceptable. Hair that is bleached is not.

Hair must be clean and completely dry before it is mailed in.

Place the ponytail or braid in a plastic bag and place the bag inside a padded envelope.

Fill out the hair donation form (available on the Web at locks oflove.org) or write your name and address on a separate sheet of paper and include it inside the envelope.

Mail hair donations to:

Locks of Love 2925 10th Ave. N., Suite 102 Lake Worth, Fla. 33461-3099

Note: Shorter hair will be separated from the ponytails and sold. Although the shorter hair cannot be used in hairpieces, income from it helps reduce production costs.

--Hugh Muir

Length, in inches, of Celeste Pettyjohn's hair from the top of her head to the tip of her tresses

Years since Pettyjohn's last haircut

Ponytails it usually takes to make one wig for Locks of Love

Length, in minutes, of Pettyjohn's appointment

Dollars for a year's tuition at the school in South Africa