At 7 years old, Alyssa Salinas has already donated her long hair twice to help other children feel better about themselves.
Three years ago, when she was 4, Alyssa got her first haircut and donated the long tresses to Locks Of Love, a nonprofit group that makes wigs for people who have lost their own hair for medical reasons.
On Monday, Alyssa had the second haircut of her life at Whipper Snippers in Santa Maria, and this time the donation was in memory of her grandmother, who died of cancer in December.
“Alyssa has been letting her hair grow out since the last time she cut it,” said her mother, Melissa Salinas. “It’s been two and a half years.”
As for Monday’s donation, “it reminds me of my grandma,” Alyssa said. “I like giving it to people who have cancer.”
“She was fine at first after my mom passed away, but lately she has been having a hard time of it,” Melissa Salinas said. “She’s been crying at night. She’s beginning to realize that grandma’s not coming back.”
Susan Vickery, Alyssa’s grandmother, was a Lompoc native who died at 54 years old of multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma in bone marrow. She had been diagnosed several years earlier, but the cancer was in remission at the time of Alyssa’s first haircut in August 2010.
At that time, the little girl had decided to cut her long black hair because she saw a friend with a short haircut that she liked. The idea of donating her hair came about because her godmother grows her own hair long and cuts it periodically to give it to Locks Of Love.
The children helped by the group are suffering from long-term hair loss for a variety of medical reasons. Many have alopecia areata, a non-contagious partial or total hair loss that some experts say may be an inherited condition. Others have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.
The wigs go to financially disadvantaged children either free or at prices that are on a sliding scale based on family income.
When Vickery died on Dec. 3, the decision to donate again to Locks Of Love took on a new meaning.
“This has been something Alyssa was talking to her grandmother about,” said Salinas. “She was supposed to cut her hair the week her grandma passed away.”
Salinas said the gift of her hair is making the little girl feel better already, and she will be donating to Locks Of Love again.
“I’m going to keep doing this for a long time,” Alyssa said.