At age 7, Nicole Van Geel, of Carson City, already knows that life can be challenging for children.
Inspired by a newspaper article and a conversation with relatives about Locks of Love, an organization that provides human hair wigs to children, the Capital Christian School second grader decided to donate 10 inches of her chestnut brown hair.
Locks of Love officials estimate 80 percent of all donations come from kids like Nicole who want to help other children who lose their own hair to illness.
"I want to do it for children who don't have any hair," she said.
Nicole's generous gesture prompted her mother Michelle Van Geel and grandmother Regina Erb of Gardnerville to donate their hair, too.
The trio was trimmed March 11 at C & Company salon in Minden by stylist Debbie Duncan.
The most dramatic change was for Erb, who has worn long hair for nearly 40 years.
"I have mixed emotions," she said before the haircut. "I just know what I am doing is the right thing to do. But I know I am going to go, 'Oh, my gosh, where is my hair?' when I am done. At my age, I have a feeling it's not going to grow as fast."
Duncan fastened each donor's hair at the neck with a rubber band, braided about 10 inches, then twisted a rubber band at the end.
It took less than 10 seconds to snip off the braid.
"Where's your hair?" Erb asked Nicole as the little girl inspected the now-detached braid.
Two hours later, the donors walked out with new hair styles.
On Wednesday, Nicole said her school friends were surprised and complimentary about her new look.
"They said, 'Wow! Is that you?'" Nicole said. "My teacher said I looked pretty."
Erb went to a church meeting after her haircut.
"When I came in, all the ladies just stopped talking and the compliments started. One friend said, 'You look 10 years younger.' I said, 'Thank you,'" Erb said.
The real test was her husband Alan who hadn't seen her with short hair for decades.
"I walked in the house and Alan said, 'Honey, that looks like your high school graduation picture.' It looks really good.'"
Erb said she finally was able to use an electric hair roller kit her husband gave her 35 years ago.
"I plugged it in, and it worked," she said.
Erb said she hoped their donation would encourage others.
"If we could get one other person to donate their hair, that would be great," Erb said. "We all know people who have had to have chemotherapy and lost their hair."
Nicole said the reaction was just as positive at her house.
"My dad told my mom and me we look beautiful," she said. "I'm glad we did it."
Guidelines for donations
• Hair that is colored or permed is acceptable; hair that is bleached is unusable.
• Hair cut years ago is usable if it has been stored in a ponytail or braid.
• Layered hair is acceptable if the longest layer is 10 inches.
• Hair that is shaved and not in a ponytail or braid is unusable.
• Curly hair may be pulled straight to measure the minimum 10 inches.
• Gray hair and shorter hair will be accepted and sold to offset manufacturing costs.
• Hair is needed from men and women, young and old, all colors and races.
• There is no maximum length.
ON THE WEB
Locks of Love: www.locksoflove.org
Photo slide show at www.nevadaappeal.com