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CAUSE:Locks of Love times three

FOR A GOOD

Newport Beach friends deliver on pact to donate 10 inches of hair to nonprofit organization for chemotherapy patients.

May 02, 2007

After her most recent haircut at Holiday Salon in Costa Mesa, Jojo Stassel, 9, left thinking she looked a bit like her younger brother, but still feeling really good about it.

Two weeks ago, Jojo and her friends Claire Olmstead and Olivia Zehnder — all of Newport Beach — made good on a pact they formed more than a year ago to each donate 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides hairpieces to children with medical hair loss.

When 5-year-old friend John Taggart died in October 2005 after battling neuroblastoma for three years, the girls vowed they would grow their hair out for other children who "lost their hair from chemotherapy."

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"It's nice to help other kids that have the same disease as John," said Jojo, who carried out the task. "I thought it would be fun and a good chance for other kids to have hair," Olivia added.

Third on the chopping block, Claire was a bit nervous after seeing her friends' bobs, but she persevered, pulling a black smock over her face as the scissors sheared off her platinum blond hair.

"I'm scared, but I want to help people like John," she said.

The girls' mothers looked on anxiously as stylist Sara Stadtmueller severed the three lustrous ponytails.

"I never knew why she hated getting her hair cut, but I think this must have been why," said Kelli Stassel, who only recently learned of her daughter's master plan. "I have to say, it's a little nerve-racking when they do that whack."

This wasn't the first time the Newport Heights Elementary third-graders have lent a hand. They helped out with a fundraiser for a classmate who was severely burned and they also volunteer annually at a lemonade stand, with profits going to cancer research.

"I am so proud of them," said Beth Zehnder, Olivia's mother. "I think this was a great thing they could do on their own, something we had nothing to do with."

Though Holiday often gets clients wanting to donate their hair to Locks of Love, owner Holly Hott said it was the first time she had a group of three in to make a collective contribution.

"It is such a good cause, and I think it's cute they know it is something they have that other people don't," she said.

Supplying about 250 hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children each year with a limited staff, Locks of Love relies on the contributions of individuals like Jojo, Olivia and Claire, and is proud that children encompass 80% of their donors.

"Every time we hear of a story similar to this, it really reaffirms our estimation that the majority of donations come from other children," spokeswoman Lauren Kukkamaa said. "What Locks of Love is then is children helping other children, which is really neat."

For more information on Locks of Love, visit www.locksoflove.org.


  • JESSIE BRUNNER may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at jessica.brunner@latimes.com.

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