Since her birth seven and a half years ago, Brooke Shafer has been steadfast in keeping her dark brown hair long.
“She used her hair like a powerful whip,” said Gibby Bachiochi, Brooke’s Brownie Girl Scout leader and the librarian at Chapman School, where Brooke is a student. “She’d whip you with it when she spun around.”
A trim here and a trim there, no more than an inch at a time was all Brooke would allow. Other than that, she was intent on letting it grow.
“I loved long hair because everyone complimented me on having such long hair,” said Brooke.
Her mother, Tanya Shafer, had other ideas about Brooke’s long hair.
“I’d been trying to get her to trim it because it was such a challenge,” said Shafer, who, several years ago, cut and donated her own hair to be used as wigs for individuals without hair.
“(Brooke) remembered that and finally decided it was getting to be so long that she wanted to do something with it.”
The mother and daughter went online and found Wigs for Kids, an organization that for 30 years has provided at no cost to children or their families hair replacement systems and support for youngsters who have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, illnesses, burns and other medical issues.
“Brooke read a bunch of stuff about different kinds of things kids need wigs for and some of their stories,” said Shafer.
With the help of Jacky Johnson, a hair stylist with a salon at Best Western Bidarka Inn, Brooke went from having really long hair to hair that now reaches barely below her shoulders.
“First Jacky parted my hair in six sections and braided them, then cut each braid separately,” said Brooke.
“By donating my 18-plus inches of hair to Wigs for Kids, they can make a wig. It takes 20 ponytails or braids to make one wig.”
Looking back, Brooke admits having long hair wasn’t always easy. Once last year she got it stuck in the track on her snowmachine. Active in gymnastics, ballet and swimming, she wore her hair in a braid most of the time. Brushing the tangles out after shampooing was a lengthy and sometimes painful process.
“Now it takes five minutes,” said Brooke, who has discovered she can earn a new Brownie patch for her donation.
“No more She-Ra,” said Bachiochi, likening Brooke’s hair to the long tresses of the fictional “Princess of Power.” Like Brooke and Shafer, Bachiochi’s husband, Dana, donated his hair several years ago to Locks of Love, an organization similar to Wigs for Kids.
“Brooke is a very independent thinker,” said Bachiochi of the first-year Brownie.
“She has leadership qualities and does a lot of stuff on her own and then comes in and reports back to us, so it’s not a surprise that she would have done this.”
Brooke and Bachiochi are working together to design a patch that will recognize Brooke’s gift of hair. That’s in addition to the other activities Troop 211 does that are based on books donated by Mary McAnelly and the Xi Upsilon Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi.
In addition to a new patch and feeling “lighter” because of less hair, Brooke takes the most pleasure in doing something that benefits others.
“It’s been a good experience for her to be able to do something she felt would help others,’ said Shafer. “She’s pretty excited about that.”
Putting it in her own words, Brooke said, “I like it because I could give kids that had no hair, hair again. (Being without hair) would be weird.”
For more information about Wigs for Kids, visit wigsforkids.org.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.