When Chad George's bus driver told him about Locks of Love, the now 12-year-old decided he wanted in on the progam for helping a youngster in need.
"I decided about three years ago when my bus driver told me about it," said Chad, a seventh-grader at Harlem Middle School. "I grew my hair out for about 2 years."
Chad, the son of Marvin and Donza George, of Harlem, said his bus driver inspired him, but what really made the decision was a young man he met while at the hospital nursing a broken elbow.
"One of my friends had leukemia," said Chad, who estimated the boy to be around 10 or 11 when he was diagnosed with cancer. While Chad doesn't have contact with the youngster any more, he said it was his courageous battle that spurred him into action.
"Before I started, I got my hair trimmed and I went through the whole 2 years without getting my hair trimmed at all," said Chad, who grew his hair to 13 inches for Locks of Love.
At school, Chad is a member of the beta club, academic bowl team and choir.
"He endured teasing from just about everyone about his shoulder-length hair," said Cynthia Gerow, one of Chad's sixth-grade teachers. "He did it for a very special reason. He had it cut at the end of the year and those beautiful blonde locks went to someone who needed them in a wig."
The Locks of Love organization estimates that 80 percent of its donations come from children wanting to help other children. With six to 10 donations required for one hairpiece, the need for donations is dramatic.
According to the Locks of Love Web site, most recipients "suffer from alopecia areata, others have experienced hair loss from radiation therapy and chemotherapy, severe burns or trauma, and various other genetic and dermatological conditions." The retail cost of the wigs, which are provided free or on a sliding scale based on financial need, ranges from $3,500 to $6,000.
When Chad had his mane cut, it was a bit of a shock.
"I was like, 'Wow, it's all gone!' I could finally feel the weight off of my head."
When asked if he was going to go through another hair-growth spell for a second donation, Chad said he's open to the idea.
"I might grow it back in a couple of years," he said.
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