When the 2011-12 women's OUA Hockey season came to a close, at least a pair of Western Mustangs will be losing more than their equipment.
Tawn Rellinger and Katie Dillon, both fourth-year players, had decided to cut off their hair and donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. Once the idea was born, Rellinger says it was an easy decision.
"I think it's a great idea," she said. "I tried to put myself in someone else's shoes, and to think about what it would mean to have real hair on my head when I couldn't grow my own. I am very fortunate to know that my hair will grow back, and that the donation of my own hair will put a smile on someone's face."
Rellinger has recruited Dillon to join the cause, and she's hoping to get more teammates on board.
"I decided to get involved because, for me, it's such a simple way to help someone in need," Dillon said. By simply cutting my hair, I can provide a wig for a child, which hopefully gives them more self confidence and affects their life in a positive way."
Locks of Love operates in both Canada and the United States, and its efforts are often directed towards financially disadvantaged children. The organization uses donated hair to create high-quality prosthetics for children under age 21 with medical hair loss. Most recipients suffer from an auto-immune condition called alopecia areata, for which there is currently no known cause or cure. Other recipients have experienced hair loss from cancer treatments.
"The requirement for length is a minimum of 10 inches, so Dillon and I have been growing out our hair for awhile," said Rellinger, whose sister has also donated to Locks of Love. "And we're still hoping that we'll recruit some more girls."
Dillon's message to potential donors -- varsity athletes or otherwise -- is simple.
"As students, it's an easy way to give since it's often difficult for us to contribute financially," she said. And I think this is an extremely easy way for us to help people who aren't fortunate enough to grow their own hair. It seems like something so little, but for those children I think it makes a big difference in their self-confidence and the normalcy of their lives."
Aside from fellow donors, Rellinger and Dillon are looking for donations to help the cause and the Mustangs women's hockey team will be holding a fundraising event in the near future.