Annual ‘gift from the heart:’ SJNCS Ponytail Drive

Lilly Edmands, 8, shows her ponytail, which was cut by her mother, Aileen Edmands, at St. John Neumann Catholic School’s annual Ponytail Drive in the school gymnasium, Wednesday, Jan. 29.
St. John Newmann Catholic School’s students and some adults gave the “gift of love” in the school’s gymnasium Wednesday, Jan. 29, when they had their hair cut for wigs going to children and young adults who do not have hair: its annual Ponytail Drive.

Now in its ninth year, 13 girls and three women sat in a row, waiting for a haircut from family members or friends while the entire student body watched and cheered. After the cuts, local stylists from Belleza Spa and Salon styled the donors’ hair for free. “It was just a generous gift from the heart,” SJNCS learning lab teacher Michelle Dougherty said.

Ponytail donors said they gave their hair “because some people don’t have hair.”

Dougherty remembered the drive was started as a class project to teach students about giving back, but then the drive became more personal. On Oct. 5, 2018, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy treatments.

During last year’s ponytail drive, Dougherty stood before students completely bald.

“As somebody who, this time last year, didn’t have hair, thank you because it makes a difference,” she told donors.

“The first year we had 25 hair givers,” Dougherty recalled, adding since then more than 208 people have participated in the event and donated 730 ponytails to two charitable organizations.

Ponytails are being donated to Children with Hair Loss, a non-profit organization headquartered in South Rockwood, Michigan, that “freely gives hair replacements, wigs and hair care kits to children and young adults who, for medical (or burn) reasons, do not have hair,” Dougherty said.

Dockery presented a video of a child with alopecia who received a hair care kit last year. The girl in the video said, “I just want to be treated normal.”

For that child, having hair means “you can walk out and people won’t pick on you.”