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Making a difference one strand at a time

Friday, February 24th, 2012 | Posted by

Elissa Matson has always worn her hair long.

Different people have different reasons for growing their hair long with the idea of donating it to one of several organizations that make wigs for cancer patients.

Elissa Matson, daughter of Chris Matson and Darlene and Bruce Reuser of Cloverdale, currently lives in Sacramento where she does in-home behavior and social skills therapy for children diagnosed with Autism.

Earlier this week she came home for a visit. While here, she got a hair cut, donating her long locks to Pantene Beautiful Lengths (http://www.pantene.com/en-US/beautiful-lengths-refresh/Pages/default.aspx).

What inspired you to donate your hair?

I guess you could say that I had several reasons that lead up to my decision to donate my hair. I had seen my best friend donate her hair on several occasions; I enjoyed the donation process through my experiences with Blood Source; and ultimately my correspondence with a relative who was going through the ordeal of having throat cancer who described the treatment process to me.

I had often heard about girls and women (and in some instances men) donating their hair to organizations like Locks of Love, Pantene Beautiful Lengths, Childhood Leukemia Foundation, and Looks Like Me. One of my best friends, Sara Wright, has made several hair donations over the past few years while volunteering with Relay For Life; and although I admired my friend and others like her I never really thought about donating my hair.

It was not until my final year at California State University Sacramento that I first started to contemplate my future and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t know where to start. I was fortunate enough to learn about Blood Source, a community based non-profit blood center, and started donating blood whenever there was a blood drive in my area. Although I was happy to give something back, I wanted to do more.

After I graduated from Sac State, I went to a family reunion where I met my second cousin, Joe Findley, a Vietnam veteran who I later learned was diagnosed with throat cancer. At the time, I was gathering medical information about my relatives in order to put together a medical family tree. I didn’t think too much about my project, and was surprised when I received a letter from Joe that covered everything from his medical history to war stories from Cambodia and Vietnam.

Joe and I became unlikely pen pals and we wrote to each other every week. Through his letters, Joe described his condition, the treatment process, his fears, and his hopes for the future. I was touched by the strength of the human spirit to struggle to overcome adversity even when things looked their worst.

In one of his letters Joe wrote to say that he was overwhelmed by the loss of his beard, which he hadn’t shaved since his return from the Vietnam War (which he explained was a symbol of respect for the memory of the veterans who fought and gave their lives for this country).

How long did it take to grow your hair?

I started to grow out my hair in the summer of 2011, it was about ten inches long. It took me about six months to grow.

When I first started, I did not know much about the requirements for donating my hair, so I started to do some research about the process of donating hair to four different organizations that made wigs for cancer patients, Locks of Love, Pantene Beautiful Lengths, Childhood Leukemia Foundation and Looks Like Me.  I went with Pantene Beautiful Lengths since I met the requirements and liked that they donated their wigs to the American Cancer Society.

How did you feel after the hair was cut?

Elissa holds up the 8" of hair she had cut to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

Cloverdale stylist Tina Mason Styles donated her time and skills for my hair cut. After she measured it and went over some style options for shorter haircuts, I felt a little nervous about cutting my hair. Change is always hard, but I reminded myself that hair is only a temporary change and decided to go through with the donation.

As soon as she made the first cut I felt an overwhelming lifting of my spirits. I felt giddy as she cut away the hair I had been so nervous about losing, relieved that the weight was finally off my shoulders. I was surprised how happy I was with the change, and was glad that I was able to donate my hair to a good cause.

What do your friends and family think about your new hair style

It has been three days since I donated my hair, and I can honestly say that my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. People I know from school and work have asked me about my hair and have complimented me on my new look. I hope others will think about donating.

I think short hair will ‘be in’ this season.

  • Nancy Lucas

    Great story and wonderful cause.

  • Colleen Hale

    Elissa – I’m not at all surprised by your generosity! You’re a wonderful example!!

  • http://www.anncarranzacreations.com Ann Carranza

    Ditto what Nancy said!

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Mary Jo Winter is our Cloverdale correspondent.
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