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Petaluma Argus-Courier Newspaper
February 11, 2004

By Erica Gerber, Argus-Courier Intern

Donors to Locks of Love may be short on hair, but they're long on caring.

Heather Barbieri checks out her dad John’s new hair do.
The duo recently donated their long manes to Locks of Love.
Photo by Terry Hankins

After many long months of growing, a Petaluma man and his daughter asked Kathie Rothkop, a local hair designer at Trico Salon, to harvest 20 inches of their hair, to be donated to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love, a non-profit agency based in Lake Worth, Fla., collects human hair donations to be assembled in Indonesia into wigs for children who suffer from alopecia areata -- an auto-immune disease that causes irreversible hair loss. More than 4.7 million American men, women and children of all ethnic backgrounds live with the disease, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, headquartered in San Rafael. Alopecia lowers the self-esteem of many of the children suffering from it and Locks of Love relies on selfless donors to give them a new lease on life.

"Anybody can [donate]," said Rothkop, "but there are some rules. The hair must be healthy and clean. It can be colored or permed but cannot be gray, and it must be a pony tail contained with a rubber band. Then you just put it in a padded envelope and send it off."

Rothkop has done free cuts for 10 donors in the last month and has been dedicated to the cause since one of her long-time clients, who had suffered from cancer, celebrated 15 years of being healthy by harvesting her hair for charity. The event was documented on video for a 15-minute segment of "Around Town" to be shown on Petaluma Community Access. Rothkop believes this has inspired some locals to donate.

"I've been getting a lot more men than women and kids. I think it's because of that show, 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,'" she said, laughing.

Once John Barbieri was told about Locks of Love, he made the decision to let his hair grow until he could donate the minimum 10 inches that Locks of Love requires for wig donations. "It's surprising how many people don't know about it. When people find out what I've been doing, they say, 'I want to do that.'"

"He was initially growing it out for a trip we took to Mexico because our daughters wanted him to get braids with them," said his wife, Amanda Barbieri. He even talked their younger daughter, Heather, 11, into donating with him.

Ten inches is a lot of hair to some people, but not to John, who has a history of crazy hairstyles, including an orange mohawk that he surprised his older daughter, Ashley, 14, with when picking her up from her school dance. "It's just hair. It grows back."

"Hair is a renewable resource," said Rothkop. "It's like a tree: You can harvest it and grow it back again." After Rothkop buzzed John, her first "victim", she asked him how he felt. He simply replied, "Cold," but said he would likely donate again.

When Heather sat in Rothkop's chair, all she could do was nod when asked if she was nervous. When the haircut was completed, she stared in shock at her new look: Hair that had been to her waist minutes before was now shoulder-length. After this, she admitted she might not donate again, but kissed her hair good-bye (literally) and handed it to Rothkop.

Rothkop explained how important each donation to the organization is, "A child may need three wigs in one lifetime." Custom hairpieces can start at $3,000, according to Locks of Love.

Hair donations under 10 inches can be made, but this hair will likely be sold to other wig makers, as a lot of the recipients of the Locks of Love wigs are girls who wish for 10- to 12-inch hair. Monetary donations to the non-profit are also welcome. This is used to pay the workers who handcraft the wigs.

Interested donors are invited to an upcoming "cut-a-thon" hosted by Redwood Empire Beauty College. The benefit will take place on May 8 and cuts will be free for those donating and $5 for those who are not, which will go directly to Sonoma County Schools.

For more information on the event, contact Kathy Lyttle or Kathy Gorman at 545-8449. To learn more about Locks of Love, visit

Trico Salon is located at 200 Fourth St. Rothkop can be contacted at 789-0697 or visit her Web site at

(Contact Erica Gerber at

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