Students donate hair for wigs for children with cancer

Her hair separated into pony tails with bands indicating the places to cut, a student chats with friends taking pictures of her as she awaits a stylist. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

LEE’S SUMMIT — Not too long ago, Liliana Haggerty, then an eighth grader at Our Lady of the Presentation School, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although she tried to remain upbeat about the treatments, it was doubly difficult when her long dark hair fell out.

“My hair was a part of me, so I lost a part of me,” she said.

Liliana and her mother, April, shopped for wigs, but Liliana recalled that they were either very expensive, didn’t match her natural hair color or texture, or all of the above. And so they went to Google to research wigs.

The website “ChildrenwithHairLoss.us” popped up. Liliana found herself getting excited while reading about the Michigan-based company. Children With Hair Loss uses donated hair, makes specialized individual molds for each client and is 100 percent free to their clients. Each donation consists of 8 inches of untreated human hair.

When the box came from Children With Hair Loss, Liliana recalled, “I opened it and it was almost like my own hair, same color, texture, even a part line. I was so happy. It meant the world to me!” Having hair again made Liliana feel more herself.

Cancer survivor Liliana Haggerty speaks to students and parents before the Cuts for Cancer event begins.

Now a freshman at St. Michael the Archangel High School, Liliana proved an inspiration to senior Colleen McNamara. Last summer she had the idea that resulted in “Cuts for Cancer” Jan. 29 in the gym at the high school. The impetus was to raise awareness of everyone — kids, adults, men and women, girls and boys — battling cancer.

Colleen recalled donating hair as a child, and thought, “How cool to have a community involved.” St. Michael’s students are grouped in communities, rather than homerooms.

The school’s website explains the community system: “The community system is designed to facilitate an atmosphere of authentic Catholic culture, create opportunities for students to be involved in leadership positions, create lasting relationships and plan school activities and events.”

The website goes on to say the high school consists of three smaller communities — Saints Padre Pio, Maximillian Kolbe and John Paul II. “Within each community there will be several ‘houses.’ Each house will be made up of students from all grade levels. This creates opportunities for students to form relationships with people from every grade level. This community system will be a dynamic and powerful way to provide a space for all students to belong to something great. Each student will have opportunities to contribute their own gifts and talents to the school community in profound and lasting ways. The community system will be built on the virtue of humility, the foundation of all Christian virtues.” 

In addition to the community, Colleen said Liliana is close friends with her younger brother and has watched the younger girl fight the lymphoma and the way her spirits rose after receiving the wig.

St. Michael’s student Charity Harris waits to collect her cut locks into a donation bag with a big smile. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

“I was able to get 30 girls in my community interested in donating their hair to Children With Hair Loss,” she said. “Some have been growing their hair for a year or two, others from babyhood. We’ve learned that one in 28 children will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday.”

The participating students included: Cameron Lehew, Elana Stoehr, Anna Glen, Clare Scheier, Charity Harris, Eva Petrini, Demi Vanbebber, Marley Vanbebber, Sydney Norton, Catherine Wheeler, Ariana Vestal Cooper, Mary Grace Tyler, Moriah Breunig, Jacqueline DeMarea, Alyssa Bolger, Nina Kish, Bella Valencia, Catherine Jakobe, Leanna Jakobe, Caroline McCombs, Teresa Baldwin Addilyn Betts, Colleen McNamara, Accalia Sartain, Ms. Zarda, Ms. Hymer, Jessica Hammack, Megan Rogge, Molly McNamara, Julia McNamara, Grace Wheeler, Hanna Maddox, Riley Dobson and Jenna Drake.

Six stylists from various salons in the Lee’s Summit area volunteered their time to cut and style the donating girls’ hair. A few of the students even brought younger sisters who also wanted to help.

During the haircutting event, non-donating members of the community watched from the bleachers, cheering and clapping. The mood was upbeat.

Father Randolph Sly, president of St. Michael the Archangel High School, said the hope of the event was to bring some normalcy to the lives of young ladies suffering from cancer.

Wearing her very natural-looking wig, Liliana roamed the gym floor, talking with donating students, even cutting some of the hair. She also posed for photographs with girls before and after the haircuts. She spoke of the program she is involved in Pediatric Blankets, Jammies and Socks (P B & J). Using bins at her dad’s workplace, she has collected more than 300 blanket, pairs of pajamas and socks for kids in need.

It was a successful hour for Colleen, the donating students, Children with Hair Loss and for Liliana, who summed up the event.

“The haircutting means so much to me. Little girls can look beautiful again,” she said.

The bags of hair in many different colors were mailed to the company on Jan. 31. And the best part of all, Liliana announced that earlier that week she had been pronounced cancer free!

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Monday
March 30, 2020
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph