Date January 18, 2024
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'Shear' courage: Students undergo transformation for a cause at hair donation drive

Spearheaded by Brown University junior Lara Jacobowitz, the effort raised funds for nonprofits and provided material to help make high-quality wigs for children with hair loss.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For Brown junior Lara Jacobowitz, the “big chop” is no big deal — the ecology and evolutionary biology concentrator has been growing out, cutting and donating her hair since she was in kindergarten.

So when finals approached at the end of the fall semester and she noticed her hair getting long, she knew what she wanted to do. But this time, she wasn’t doing it alone.

Student reacts mid-haircut
Brown undergraduate Orli Hockenstein reacts mid-shear at the hair donation drive organized by fellow student Lara Jacobowitz. Hockenstein was among six students who donated hair, but the only one to fully shave her head. 
“It takes so much [to make a wig], but it doesn’t really take anything from me,” said Jacobowitz, who noted that hair must be at least 8 inches to donate, and that it takes roughly five donations to create a single wig. “I was like, there’s got to be enough people on campus with long hair who also want to do this.”

Working with a staff member at Brown-RISD Hillel, which hosted the event and helped to procure necessary supplies, Jacobowitz and others gathered for a mid-December donation drive to raze hair and raise money. In addition, attendees donated funds for the chance to wield the scissors and cut a ponytail from a student donating their hair.

“We sectioned the hair into a lot of pieces, then had friends cut the hair,” Jacobowitz said. “Involving your friends and putting that kind of trust in other people is really powerful.”

Six students got a new ’do at the drive, while four others brought hair they had already cut with the intention of donating.

The hair will be donated to Children with Hair Loss, a nonprofit that provides free human-hair wigs to kids with medically related hair loss. The accompanying financial donations, which totaled $514, will be split between the B+ Foundation, which provides financial assistance to families of kids with cancer, and Sharsheret, a nonprofit that supports Jewish women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The drive marks Jacobowitz’s fifth hair donation, but certainly not her — or other Brown students’ — last.

“There were so many folks who weren’t able to do it in December, and they are already asking to do it next semester,” she said. “We have all the tools and logistics down, and I just think it’s really fun. I will gladly organize it again.”