Lethbridge Sun Times (Newspaper) - July 18, 2007, Lethbridge, Alberta Wednesday July 18, 2007 TIMES A FREE PUBLICATION SERVING OVER 24,000 HOUSEHOLDS IN THE CITY EACH WEDNESDAY LETHBRIDGE'S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER Wired and wise See page 9 Helping kids surf safely Letting her hair down for a good cause Local girl donates her locks to make wigs for cancer victims By AL BEEBER For the Sun Times Three years ago, young Erin Nishikawa told her mother Leona she wanted to grow her hair long and have it cut off so cancer victims could get wigs. Her mother didn't know how the six-year-old kindergarten student came up with the idea which seemingly came out of the blue. "She just said, 'one day I'm going to donate my hair,'" Leona recalled last week as her daughter fulfilled a three-year mission and had her locks shorn at Strut Salon and Spa by hairstylist Megan Myndio. Now nine years old and getting ready to go into Grade 4, the shy Erin gamely climbed into the stylist's chair and had her hair-which had grown almost waist length - cut to her shoulders. She had asked her mom in the spring if she could cut it but Leona had her wait just a little longer and with summer's heat here, when Erin asked again, mom was agreeable. The hair is being donated to a Canadian organization called Angel Hair for Kids which provides wigs at no charge for disadvantaged families of children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments, burns or alopecia, a condition in which hair loss develops. Run by the non-profit Child's Voice Foundation, started in Ontario by Roslyn Yearwood and Amalia Ruggiero, Angel Hair for Kids' mission to help children deal with the physical consequences of their illness. The wigs can help give them a renewed sense of self-esteem and confidence. Angel Hair for Kids is a national program and the only one of its kind in Canada, providing wigs for children nine to 19 whose parents can't afford to bear the $l,200-$3,000 cost of a wig themselves. The program doesn't make the wigs itself but rather has them done by professional manufacturers who supply their services. Wigs require the hair from 10-12 people and cost about $800 to produce. Once made, wigs are specially fitted and styled for individual recipients. At any given time, Angel Hair for Kids has between five and 10 people on its waiting list. Nishikawa discovered Angel Hair for Kids while searching online for a Canadian program that would make wigs for Canadian children. "I thought 'there's got to be something in Canada for our kids,'" she recalled. Erin's hair is being shipped to the organization's headquarters in Mississauga, Ont. Donors hair must be at least 10 inches long to be used for wigs. Leona was hoping her daughter's contribution - which was to be secured in a ponytail wrapped tightly by a rubber band for shipping - would be about 12 inches. Her daughter was not the least bit hesitant about giving up her hair. Having long hair cut, though, can be tough, says Myndio. "We have people thinking long and hard before cutting it. It can be traumatic. The change takes a day or two to get used to. We definitely tell people to think about it. "If you're just cutting it off for a change, it definitely scares you more. If you're doing it for a good cause, it shouldn't be so hard." According to achildsvoicefoundation.com, 10,000 Canadian children a year lose their hair because of cancer, burns or alopecia. Angel Hair for Kids provided wigs for 150 kids in its first three years of operation. For hair to be accepted, these guidelines must be followed: Hair must be clean and dry Minimum length of cut-off hair needs to be not less than 10 inches SUN TIMES PHOTO BY AL BEEBER Megan Myndio begins cutting Erin Nishikawa's hair, to be donated for wigs for cancer victims. Hair should not be permed nor heavily coloured (.bleached or highlighted hair can't be used.) Hair must be in a secure braid or ponytail tied with a very tight elastic band at both ends. Hair must be placed in a plastic bag or tissue paper. Donations can be sent to: A Child's Voice Foundation, c/o Angel Hair for Kids, 3034 Palstan Road, No. 305, Mississauga, Ontario, L4Y 2Z6.