Angels Prepare for Annual Day of Giving at High School

If your New Year’s resolution is to try a fresh look – never fear! The annual Pantene Beautiful Lengths “Day of Giving” Hair Drive at Londonderry High School is just around the corner.

At the yearly Day of Giving event on Jan. 5, the LHS community is invited to come let their hair down (so to speak) and donate their ponytails to the American Cancer Society. The hair is used to create wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair due to treatment. The drive brings together students, families, and over a dozen local stylists to create a moment that makes a community proud.

“The first cut is always done by friends and family chosen by the angel,” said LHS teacher, Steve Juster who has been organizing the event since its beginning. “The cut itself is a spectacle.”

Juster started the drive 12 years ago and has been running it since. He said he was trying to think of a way to use the “positive energy” of the school’s pep rallies to engage with the community. He went home one day, turned on his TV – and there was his inspiration – a segment on the Today Show about the Pantene Beautiful Lengths Hair Drive. Juster recalled the show had someone from each state donating hair, and the woman from New Hampshire looked just like a former student of his. He reached out to her, and although she ended up not being the person he thought she was, she was excited to come talk to LHS students about donating to the hair drive.

Juster originally wasn’t sure if any of his students would participate. He had spoken with Ellyse Davis about donating her hair, but she was hesitant because she was modeling at the time and was told that long hair made her more marketable. Juster had showed videos to his class and brought in a few permission slips, but no one signed up. Another teacher came up to him later, and said she had a few students sign up, including Davis.

According to Juster, she had changed her mind, saying “How could [she] keep it when others need it”? It just felt selfish to her.

There were 62 people who donated that year. Juster knew he had something worthwhile when the first students signed up for the second year.

“It’s funny that it all worked out that way,” he said.

Since then, the hair drive at the Day of Giving has grown to over 230 donors at its peak. This year, Juster said he has 120 donors signed up. It’s become such an event that Juster has photographer Roger Grondin come in to take before and after photos for the kids. Donations occur throughout the year, so not every ponytail is collected at once.

“They don’t all come in on that day,” said Juster, but the Day of Giving is about more than just the haircut. It’s about the lead up – the reasons why the students donate their time and hair to the American Cancer Society.

Hannah Ellis is only a freshman, but she said she is ready to donate the eight inches required after cutting her older sister’s hair the year before. “I think donating it to someone who needs it and wants it is a good way to get rid of it,” said Ellis.  That sentiment is shared with Jaelee and Anna Hutchinson, who will be donating their hair along with their younger sister, Rachel. Anna donated her freshman year and is up for the challenge again as a junior.

“I really like my hair, personally. . . I think it would be traumatic to lose it so giving it to someone would be worth it,” said Anna.

Jaelee explained that the three sisters would be cutting each other’s hair during the drive, round robin style. She also talked about their aunt, who is an ovarian cancer survivor, and how she lost her hair during chemo. “I know it was really hard for her to lose her hair,” said Jaelee. Luckily, her aunt is now cancer free.

Juster said it takes about six and a half people to make a wig. Depending on how many donations LHS gets, “certain years it can be 30-40 wigs” made from the hair collected.  Over the years, Juster estimated he’s had between 2,640 to 2,650 people donate to the hair drive.

“As long as we have one person signed up, we’ll have the event,” he said.

If anyone wants to donate hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths Hair Drive, they can go to LHS on January 5 to participate. There is no age requirement, but all students need to have a permission slip signed by their guardian.

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