Friday, June 13, 2008

Why I Don't Support Locks of Love

Okay, I've been meaning to write this post for a couple of years, but it seems like someone has always just cut their hair and donated it to Locks of Love, and I really didn't want to offend anyone, or make them feel bad.

Buck up, Lizard Eater. Tell 'em how you feel.

I love the idea of donating your hair to a charity. It's something so meaningful -- you're donating a part of yourself! And we girls, well, we've been raised on this notion. It's Della in Gift of the Magi and Jo in Little Women. It's putting someone else before your own vanity. It's lovely.

My problem with Locks of Love is that I think most people who donate are doing it under false assumptions:

a) Their hair will be used to make a wig
b) Their hair will be used to make a wig for a child with cancer
c) Their hair will be used to make a wig for a child with cancer, donating it to them for free

Now then:

a) Chances are good that your hair is either sold to a wigmaker or thrown away. (I read somewhere, but sorry, can't remember the source, that most American hair isn't good for wigs because we wash it all the time, use hairdryers, etc.)
b) The primary purpose of Locks of Love is children with alopecia. They donate their wigs to children with permanent hairloss, not the temporary loss caused by chemotherapy.
c) Not necessarily. For many, they are sold on a sliding-fee basis. One sends in an application, tax returns, medical diagnosis and two letters of recommendation.

Unlike some, I don't consider Locks of Love to be a scam. If you donated, you did a good thing. Children with alopecia deserve something that will make them feel more normal. (Although, maybe it's the Universalist in me, but I have an issue with requiring two letters of recommendation just for something to feel like you're a normal kid. But that's me.)

My problem is that there is a wide chasm between what people think Locks of Love does and the reality. Verisimilitude! This is one case where you can "blame the media" who don't even do the most basic investigation -- I mean, most of this information is on Locks of Love's own website. But the media continue to promote misinformation, such as in this article:
"...he and several members of their Unitarian congregation decided to grow their hair for Locks of Love. The nonprofit organization provides wigs for children who lose their hair during chemotherapy."
So, if you have long hair and you specifically want to help kids with cancer, what to do? Well, I have some answers.

1) Donate it to Wigs for Kids.
2) To donate it for an adult going through chemo, donate to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths.
3) Best yet: Sell it and donate the proceeds to CureSearch.


plaidshoes said...

Very interesting. I didn't realize that is how it works. Thanks for the alternative suggestions!

Comrade Kevin said...

Often well-meaning charities like this can morph into for-profit institutions.

The March of Dimes, for instance, was never meant to be a long-lasting institution but was so successful it continued past its stated start date and arguably has now morphed into a parody of its very stated goals.