CLEVELAND, Ohio — There’s always a need for hair donations for wigs to help those who lost their hair to illness, but during the pandemic, donations dried up when many stopped going to salons. Now, people are headed back and donations are starting to pick up again.
Wigs For Kids isn’t your average hair salon. There aren't any people getting their hair done. Instead, they work on special wigs for kids with cancer or other issues that may cause them to lose their hair.
Making sure kids can feel like kids is the mission of Wigs for Kids founder Jeffrey Paul.
“To be a child who loses their hair, to be a child who is so weirdly different, by the standards of the playground I’ll call it or school is really unbelievable,” said Paul.
About 35 years ago, Paul was at the top of his game, working as a stylist to models, presidents, and royalty. But it all changed when his niece told him she had cancer.
She told him she just wanted one thing.
“'Uncle Jeff, I’m going to be trying out for the gymnastic competition and it has to be with hair,'” he remembered.
If he knew one thing, it was hair. He worked with manufacturers to come up with a wig that could stay on during a competition.
“We had to create a prosthetic now, rather than a wig. And that’s what we work towards to this day,” he said.
Things had been going well for the 35 years since, until last year.
Hair donations fell off dramatically at the start of the pandemic.
“The raw material wasn’t there. The manufacturing wasn’t there. It was delayed,” said Paul.
It usually takes Wigs For Kids three months to make a wig. During the pandemic, it's been taking them almost nine.
“At that time, we thought we were going back to school in September. And I am sweating because how do I get these kids to be able to go back to school. We got 500, 600 kids that we care for in a year,” said Paul.
Paul says they barely scraped by, but they were able to get every kid who needed one a wig.
And as COVID-19 rates have gone down, hair donations have gone up.
“All of a sudden, we started to see the hair come,” Paul said. “Hair donations as of January, February had gotten caught up finally to what we average on a daily basis.”
“I was looking for a change in my looks, and my hair was super long, and I thought I would give the hair to somebody else who can’t grow it on their own and who would put good use to it,” said Jess Khani.
Khani is one of those post-COVID-19 donors. She donated 10 inches to Children with Hair Loss, another organization that makes wigs.
For her, it was a mutually beneficial decision.
“Of course the fact that it’s going to somebody in need, but also I did love leaving the salon and having a whole new look,” she said.
There are some things to know if you decide to donate your hair. First, make sure you check with your stylist to make sure they know what to do.
“It needs to be bound correctly, it needs to be cut correctly, it needs to be dry and clean, and then it needs to be long,” said Paul.
Paul says to make a wig with 14 inches of hair, which is what little girls want, Wigs For Kids really needs 18 inches of hair.
“Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow,” said Paul.
And if you end up going a little shorter than you planned, Paul says remember what it means to the child who gets your hair.
“When you get done with this journey in life, I’d like to look and see how many people we impacted,” said Paul. “For a couple dollars a ponytail, cut their hair, or whatever part they play, it’s a really important role.”