St. Jerome students get their haircut May 5 at a school-organized “Cuts for Kids” benefit. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

PEORIA — Sometimes short cuts can be a good thing. Just ask Sarah Valles.

The 11-year-old, well known at St. Jerome School for having long hair, has never let it go to waste. Every haircut she has had — all two of them — helped provide a wig for cancer patients.

She never found the extra length cumbersome because there were more styling options when her hair was long, but after getting at least 10 inches chopped off May 5, looked forward to a cooler summer ‘do. So did some of her peers.

Valles was one of 13 students — largely from St. Jerome — and three adults who joined a “Cuts for the Kids” benefit May 5. Each ponytail will help provide a wig through the Childhood Leukemia Foundation’s Hugs-U-Wear program.

It was the second time Chris Birnbaum, librarian at St. Jerome, organized such an event as her own hair approached a length suitable for donating and the first time the school partnered with Cutting Edge, a student style academy in Peoria. The salon reserved seven stations for the event.

“I donate for my family members and friends who have been affected by cancer and its related hair loss,” Birnbaum said.

She made her third donation during morning announcements days before the school-wide benefit as a sort of pep rally.

Most of the students who went to the salon were first-time donors who simply thought it’d be fun. Some were nervous about having so much cut off, but were all smiles by the end.

Seventh-grader Tierney Dedonatis wanted to donate her hair to kids who can’t grow it and said her shorter hair will be easier to manage.

“It took a long time to straighten,” she said.

Isabel Love, a second-grader at Ss. Simon and Jude, could relate. She felt her longer hair was often untidy and likes how it hangs above her shoulders now.

Two donors were twins with two other sisters part of a triplet set. Their brother didn’t donate although a man did donate his hair when St. Jerome held a haircut benefit in 2009.

The “Cuts for the Kids” wasn’t the first time local Catholic school students grew out their hair so others could have some. Blessed Pope John XXIII held its third annual haircut event in March in the Scottsdale school’s courtyard.

Six students donated eight to 12 inches of their hair to one of three organizations that make wigs for cancer patients and those with alopecia. The third- through seventh-graders donated simply to help others and, for some, in honor of family or friends who are cancer survivors.

St. Thomas the Apostle hosted its first “Mane Event” — the school mascot is a mustang — to kick off the school year in August.

Eleven students, two moms and a 4-year-old sibling had their lengthy locks cut off in front of the whole school. The hair benefited Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths Program. St. Thomas the Apostle is planning another “Mane Event” in August.


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