Going to new lengths

Redefining Beautiful hold annual hair donation event

“We were really close before she had cancer,” Megan O’Connell (11) said.

Before the cancer.

“I really had no clue that I had cancer since I was a runner,” Mrs. Patty O’Connell, cancer survivor, said in a phone interview conducted, April 22. “I was in pretty good shape.”

There was the O’Connell family before the cancer. And then there was the O’Connell family after. That’s how pivotal the experience was. The cancer spread beyond the patient to infect the whole family dynamic.

Battling the cancer requires everything the patient has, often leaving little left for anything else.

“We kind of had to rebuild our relationship together after the cancer,” Megan O’Connell said. “When she was going through chemo, she kind of changed how she acted.”

Students in Redefining Beautiful are joining that battle this Saturday, April 30. They hope to provide a resource for women undergoing cancer treatment by collecting hair and monetary donations at a Pantene Beautiful Lengths event at Supercuts in Ellisville.

The event, which has been held for four years, gives community members the opportunity to cut their hair and donate to make wigs for women, like Mrs. O’Connell, who are battling cancer.

“The original members of the club wanted to do something that would help a lot of women feel better about themselves,” Mrs. Debbie Powell, Redefining Beautiful sponsor, said. “The motto of the club is to help raise self-esteem in others through service, so they try to think of a lot of activities that will do that.”

Club members, no strangers to the cause, hope to make a direct impact on the lives women going through cancer treatment.

“My dad is a cancer survivor, and I have a friend who also dealt with it,” Madi Goetzke, member, said. “I’ve seen the toll it takes on people, and it’s awful.”

Students who haven’t chemically treated, bleached or permanently dyed their hair can donate. Pantene requires a minimum length of 8 inches.

Hair will regrow after three to six months after completing chemotherapy, so wigs greatly help cancer patients self-esteem, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“I decided to not wear a wig to my sister’s wedding,” Mrs. O’Connell said. “I did get a lot of people who came up and told me ‘Good job. You are pretty gutsy,’ which was weird.”

One haircut can make a difference.

Over the past three events, Redefining Beautiful has collected over 100 ponytails and donate $1,000 for the American Cancer Society–no small feat since usually six to ten ponytails are required to make a wig.

“By donating, you are giving someone, like you, the ability to have hair. It really helps them fit in and feel more comfortable,” Sydney Powell, member, said. “I feel that it’s so important to help out other people, so if you have the ability, why wouldn’t you?”