Locks of Love - March 2007 Charity-of-the-Month
Locks of Love
2925 10th Avenue North
Lake Worth, FL 33461
Locks of Love's mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need. Locks of Love is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, incorporated in December of 1997 and based in Lake Worth, Florida.
Locks of Love has helped over 2,000 children and their families!
Who We Service
Our recipients are financially disadvantaged children, age 18 and under, suffering from long-term medical hair loss. Most of our children suffer from an autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata, which causes the hair follicles to shut down. In addition to the loss of scalp hair, many also lose their eyelashes, eyebrows and all body hair. This hair loss is permanent in most cases, and there is no known cause or cure. Other recipients have been victim to severe burns, endured radiation treatment to the brain stem as a treatment for cancer, or suffer from any number of skin disorders that cause permanent hair loss.
Why We Are Needed
There are several problems facing children who suffer long-term medical hair loss. Most wigs sold by retailers are made to fit adult heads, and are much too big for children to wear. They often require the use of tape or glue to keep them from falling off, and these adhesives can burn or irritate the scalp. Often, the styles of adult wigs are not age-appropriate and synthetic wigs can mat and frizz with excessive styling.
The hair prosthetics Locks of Love provides are custom-made from donated ponytails for each child's head. (They retail between $3,500 to $6,000.) The hairpiece forms a vacuum seal, like a suction cup, and does not require the use of tape or glue. Only the wearer of the hairpiece may remove it, by breaking the vacuum seal at the temples. Children can dismiss insecurities about classmates pulling off their hairpiece, or losing it at recess. They can swim, shower and do gymnastics - in short, they can be kids again. Each hairpiece is made from real human hair, and arrives long, so the recipient may style it to fit their face.
Benefits To Children
The children who receive these hairpieces have lost more than their hair; they suffer from a loss of self. Many children have been teased by classmates and/or embarrassed by the attention they receive because of their hair loss. They often will withdraw from normal childhood activities such as swimming, going to the mall or even playing with their friends. While wearing a hairpiece is certainly not a cure for these children, it can help restore some of the normalcy to their everyday lives that most of us take for granted. It is our goal to help provide a foundation on which they can begin to rebuild their self-esteem.
Locks of Love Facts
- Based in Lake Worth, FL, Locks of Love originated as part of a for-profit wig retailer. Locks of Love was incorporated into a not-for-profit organization in December of 1997 when a need for quality children's hair prosthetics was recognized. Once the Board of Directors was organized, they separated from the wig manufacturer to avoid any conflict of interest.
- Madonna Coffman is the organization's President, a volunteer position. She governs a six-member volunteer Board of Directors. There are 6 full-time staff members. Volunteers from the surrounding community comprise the majority of the organization's staff. They open mail, sort hair and send thank-you notes, among other tasks.
- The first year of operation, the organization provided 21 hairpieces. To date, we have helped over 2,000 children.
- We rely on donations from the general public, foundations and civic groups. Those donations help us pay for the production of the hairpieces, as well as operational and administrative costs.
- The hairpieces we provide are designed for those with a complete loss of scalp hair. The vacuum fit displaces air and creates a suction with the wearer's head, eliminating the need for adhesives. This kind of hairpiece allows the children who wear them to resume normal daily activities, including swimming, gymnastics, and any other physical activity.
- The target population for this program is children 18 and under suffering from long-term medical hair loss. Qualifying diagnoses include the following but are not limited to: alopecia areata (totalis and universalis), severe burns to the scalp, radiation treatment to the brain stem as a treatment for cancer and loose anagen syndrome.
- Children must apply to Locks of Love in order to be considered for a hairpiece. The application includes a nomination form, photo of the child without a hairpiece, doctor's diagnosis, most recent tax return, essay about the child being nominated, and two letters of recommendation. Recipients may re-apply with Locks of Love every 18 months to receive a replacement hairpiece. The Board of Directors review completed files for consideration, and the President recommends approval for each applicant.
- Recipients begin the production process in their homes by making a plaster mold of the child's head. Locks of Love provides the molding materials. This includes an instructional video, a water-transfer pen, plaster strips and a hair ring, from which the child can choose his or her new hair color. From this mold, a fit cap is produced to check the vacuum seal. Once the fit cap is approved, the actual hairpiece is assembled by hand. The entire process takes four to six months.
Questions & Answers
Q: How many ponytails does it take to make a hairpiece?
A: Six to 10 donated ponytails go into one hairpiece because Locks of Love only uses the lengths of 10 inches and longer.
Q: Why does Locks of Love ask for 10 inches minimum length in a donated ponytail?
A: Most of the children whom Locks of Love helps are girls. They want long hair. The manufacturing process uses 2 inches of the hair, leaving only an 8-inch length. Most of our girls want hair 12-14 inches long, requiring donated ponytails of 14-16 inches. When Locks of Love needs to manufacture a hairpiece for a boy, we use some of the shorter lengths that have been separated by hand from each donated ponytail.
Q: Can I donate a ponytail that is shorter than 10 inches?
A: Yes, but only with the understanding that it will most likely be sold to help offset the at-cost manufacturing of hairpieces for children. If this is your desire, please include a note to this effect with your hair donation.
Q: Do you help boys and girls?
A: Yes, Locks of Love helps both boys and girls. The vast majority of children who approach Locks of Love for help are girls. We think that the reason for this is that it is socially acceptable for young men to have short, shaved, or even no hair, but it is not socially acceptable for young ladies to have no hair.
Q: What aged children do you help?
A: Children under 6 years receive synthetic hairpieces because this age group of children experiences rapid growth in the size of their head. Children aged 6-18 with long-term hair loss receive custom, vacuum-fit hair prosthetics. Children suffering from short-term hair loss are given synthetic hairpieces.
Q: Can I meet the child who receives my hair?
A: Locks of Love cannot link donors to recipients for two important reasons:
1. Tracking each donated ponytail would not be feasible, financially.
2. Since all applicants are under 18, they are minors and we must protect the children's privacy. However, our bi-annual newsletter features Locks of Love children who have agreed to appear publicly.
Q: Who donates hair to Locks of Love?
A: Adults and children the world over donate their 10-inch and longer ponytails to Locks of Love. We use hair from adults and children, men and women, all colors, and all races. We estimate that children donated over 80 percent of the ponytails received.
Q: Do you need financial donations?
A: Yes, financial gifts will enable Locks of Love to pay for the production of the hairpieces, which are then donated. Proceeds from the sale of short or grey hair help to pay for expenses like long-distance telephone service, website maintenance, postage, shipping, printing, etc.
Q: What do the children pay for these hairpieces?
A: Locks of Love provides children with hairpieces and their subsequent repairs free of charge or on a sliding scale based on the financial need of those responsible for the children.
Q: What would be the cost if a child bought this hairpiece?
A: Custom hairpieces start at $3,500 retail.
Q: Do you help all children?
A: Yes, Locks of Love provides hairpieces to children 18 years and younger in the US and Canada regardless of race, creed, or religion.
Q: About how long will it take to receive an acknowledgement for my donation?
A: Locks of Love works to thank all donors as quickly as possible. Because Locks of Love relies on vounteers to help with this task, it may take up to 90 days to receive your acknowledgement. Your patience is greatly appreciated.
Q: Why does Locks of Love literature include a portion to make a financial donation?
A: All charities function because of thoughtful and generous financial gifts made by supporters. Locks of Love must give individuals every opportunity to make a financial donation. Many Locks of Love supporters copy and distribute our literature throughout their community. Locks of Love must give these individuals an opportunity to donate their money if they wish.
Donations & Gifts
Two Locks of Love Donors
1. We accept 10" minimum hair length (tip to tip). We cannot accept wigs, falls, or synthetic hair.
2. Please bundle hair in ponytail or braid.
3. Hair needs to be clean, dry, placed in a plastic bag, then padded envelope.
4. We need hair from men and women, young and old, all colors and races.
5. Hair may be colored or permed, but not bleached or chemically damaged (if unsure, ask your stylist).
6. Hair swept off the floor is not usable.
7. Hair cut years ago is usable if it has been stored in a ponytail or braid.
8. Hair that is short, gray, or unsuitable for children will be separated from the ponytails and sold at fair market value to offset the cost of manufacturing.
9. You may pull curly hair straight to measure the minimum 10".
10. The majority of all hair donated comes from children who wish to help other children.
11. Layered hair may be divided into multiple ponytails for donation.
12. Please note: Anyone can cut your hair as long as the above guidelines are followed.
Downloadable Hair Donation Form (PDF)
Downloadable Hair Donation Guidelines en Espaņol. (PDF)
Donor Support Page
* Please note, to donate your hair the Hair Donation Form is not required. If you are having trouble downloading or printing the Hair Donation Form, just write down your name and address on a separate sheet of paper and include it in the envelope with your donation so that we may send you an acknowledgement.
When Locks of Love first began, it was connected with a for-profit wig retailer. In December 1997, the organization obtained its 501(c)(3) certification from the IRS. With the installation of a volunteer Board of Directors, the charity began operating as an entity unto itself under its bylaws and separated from the for-profit retailer. This initiative was spearheaded by Madonna Coffman, a retired cardiac nurse who had a great deal of volunteer experience working for not-for-profits in the surrounding Palm Beach area.
When Mrs. Coffman was in her 20's she developed Alopecia after receiving a hepatitis vaccination. With medications, she recovered. 15 years later, her 4-year old daughter developed alopecia and lost all of her hair. Madonna said it was difficult to deal with her hair loss, but her daughter's loss was ten times harder. It was at this time that she quit all other charity work and took on Locks of Love as a full time volunteer cheered on by her daughter's recovery as her inspiration.
For some time the contents of Mrs. Coffman's garage contained bins of mail and hair donations. After finally securing donated office space from a local hospital and locating a manufacturer of the highest quality prosthetics, Locks of Love was off and running. Since the beginning, the charity has received a great deal of support by both the media and its volunteers throughout the country. Locks of Love has been featured or mentioned on television shows such as The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, Oprah, 20/20, The View, Jay Leno, Maury Povich, Good Morning America, CBS Good Morning, CNN Espanol and Inside Edition and in national publications including USA Today, The NY Times, People, Seventeen, Glamour, CosmoGirl, Self, Redbook, Woman's Day, ElleGirl, Child Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.
The number of hairpieces produced has increased significantly since its inception, from 21 the first year to over 2,000. Locks of Love has recipients in all 50 states and Canada and is working towards its goal to help every financially disadvantaged child suffering from long-term hair loss.
About Locks of Love
Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.
Locks of Love is not a manufacturer of any type of hair replacement product or hair care product. As a charity and strictly a charity, we must purchase the custom prostheses we provide for our recipients.
In no way is Locks of Love associated with or an affiliate of any for-profit hair replacement business. Furthermore, none of its employees or members of the Board of Directors is associated with any company in the hair replacement or hair care industries.
Locks of Love
2925 10th Avenue North
Lake Worth, FL 33461