Londonderry High Pantene Donors Take ‘Before’ Photos

The eighth annual Pantene Beautiful Lengths hair cutting for cancer patients’ wigs will be Jan. 10 at the Londonderry High School gym, but last Friday, participants arrived for a “before” picture, showing the length of their hair before it gets cut in January.

The hair cutting takes on a party atmosphere, with music and a sense of doing something for someone else. On Jan. 10, friends and relatives will come to the gym to watch, as the participating students, their hair braided, get their braids cut off by fellow students. The 8-inch or longer braids are then donated to make wigs that are given free to cancer patients who have lost their hair from the harsh chemicals in their treatment regimen.
After the haircuts, the students have their remaining hair styled by professional hair stylists who volunteer their time.
When all the cutting is done, a group photo will be taken by local photographer Roger Grondin, who took the “before” pictures last week.
The event has produced almost 1,200 donors over the past six years. Just over 130 donors are signed up so far for the 2014 event.
“We started pep rallies in 2004 when we got the new gym and could fit all the students in at once,” said LHS English teacher Steve Juster, who organizes the event. “But I thought we needed to do a little something more. We’ve got over 2,000 people and with all that energy in that room, more can come of this.”
Juster said he contacted Pantene and the company sent him a promotional DVD that he gave to all the English teachers and asked them to show it to their classes, to see if anyone wanted to get involved in the hair cutting.
“Suddenly kids started coming in,” Juster said, noting they had a feeling of involvement and being part of something big.
“I’m sort of the set-up person, and people send me e-mails thanking me for doing it, but I’m the tip of a very big iceberg,” Juster said.
Julia Frechette, 17, a senior, donated hair in her freshman year and is donating for the second time this year.
“I don’t mind donating because I like change and it’s a really good cause. Two of my friends’ parents had cancer. One had breast cancer and the other, her dad has colon cancer,” Frechette said.
Frechette said her mom is supportive of what she is doing.
The Austen sisters, Abigail, 6, and Hannah, 17, sat in front of the photographer and showed their tresses that will be cut.
Abigail, a quiet Matthew Thornton Elementary School student, had little to say, other than that she looks forward to her haircut.
“We’re doing it in honor of our grandfather who passed away last year on the day that they are doing the cutting, Jan. 10,” Hannah said.
Their dad, Doug Austen, brought Abigail from Matthew Thornton for the photo shoot.
He said he’s very proud of his daughters and supports them 100 percent.
Junior Alex Burnelle, 17, said she’s donated every year and this is her third donation.
“I donated as a freshman, sophomore and now as a junior. When I was in eighth grade, my older sister Jordan donated and I cut her hair, and this year Jordan and my mom will be cutting my hair,” Burnelle said.
Sophomore Yuly Cabeza, 14, is donating her hair because of a friend.
“When I was still in Colombia, my best friend had cancer when she was in the sixth grade, and she told me that she wanted my hair because she said it was beautiful,” Cabeza said. “She passed away about a year later and I’m donating in her memory.”
The students talked excitedly among themselves as they queued up for the photographer and planned their day, all the while planning to help others whose lives have become anything but mundane.

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