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Mrs. Hawai'i cuts locks for love

by Kalamalama staff


Reenie Rea, spring HPU graduate and current Mrs. Hawai‘i United States, cropped 14 inches of her hair for Locks of Love, a not-for-profit organization that helps financially disadvantaged children struggling with medical hair loss.

Rea cut her hair in May at Paul Brown Salon. She said, “It was my choice, not an event.” But the action inspired her to begin organizing fundraisers (hair-raisers?) for Locks of Love. The first of these was held Nov. 30 at Salon Bobbi ‘N’ Guy at Ward Warehouse. For the event, stylist cut and styled donor’s remaining hair for free.

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The Ward Warehouse fundraiser included prizes for the longest hair, the first haircut, and more, and featured live entertainment from several local groups. Everyone who donated hair received a Christmas-wrapped thank you gift with a “New You” theme.

According to Locks of Love, a custom handmade hairpiece takes about 140,000 individual strands of hair—or 10 to 15 donated ponytails for one hairpiece. Each hairpiece takes about four months to complete.

Locks of Love provides materials for making a plaster mold of the child’s head, an instructional video, and a sample of hair color. From the head mold, a silicon fit cap is produced. The hairs are injected into a silicone base, which becomes part of the cap. Each cap is designed for a vacuum fit that does not require tape or glue. Children can swim, shower, and do gymnastics with the vacuum-sealed hairpiece, which arrives long, so that the child can style it to compliment their face.
According to Locks of Love, Rea said, about two million children throughout the United States suffer from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes the hair follicles to shut down. About 22,000 children under the age of 18 suffer from brain tumors and require radiation treatment that causes permanent hair loss. And other children suffer from serious burns to the scalp that result in permanent hair loss.

“ The help that Locks of Love provides children goes beyond superficial beauty,” Rea explained. “The children who suffer from long-term or permanent hair loss also suffer from a loss of self.

Locks of Love’s mission is to help these children rebuild their self-esteem and regain the normalcy in their everyday lives that the rest of us take for granted.

“ Hawai‘i,” Rea continued, “is the perfect place to raise awareness about Locks of Love since so many women here are blessed with long hair. When I cut and gave my hair to Locks of Love, I felt so good that I was helping restore a child’s self-confidence and providing hope for the future.”

Along with organizing the fundraiser, which she hopes to make an annual event, Rea also regularly visits local children’s hospitals to encourage qualified children who need a hairpiece to sign up with Locks of Love to receive one. “The hairpieces are provided free or on a sliding scale, depending on the family’s financial need,” said Rea. “An application is needed to be a recipient and the children must be younger than 18-years-old.”

For those interested in donating, Rea explained, hair must be a minimum of 10-inches or longer and not chemically damaged or bleached. Dyed or permed hair is accepted. Donors are encouraged to come to the fundraisers with their hair tied in a ponytail.

For more information about Locks of Love, future fundraisers, and where to send donations, log on to the official Web site at

Reenie Rea is a former Kalamalama news editor; her 2002 feature article on Honolulu’s Garbage to Energy recycling program won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists Hawai‘i Chapter. She is currently an intern with the Perry and Price morning show on KSSK and works part time at STAR 101.9 radio.



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