Hair for the holidays

Facing the holidays after the loss of a loved one is always difficult, but one La Cañada family has found a way to cover a bit of their sorrow with a gift to others who are suffering. In “Gift of the Magi” style, 9-year-old Paradise Canyon student Abbey Coleman — whose dad, Craig Coleman died of cancer last year — donated the precious gift of about 10 inches of her hair this week to an organization that makes wigs for children who've lost their hair due to cancer.

Abbey plans to repeat her donation every other Christmas — in memory of her dad — as that's about how long she anticipates it will take for her hair to grow long again.

Although Abbey said her dad might have been a little disappointed at the loss of her long locks, she also knows he'd be proud of her for giving of herself to other children. “It's good to give to other kids who don't have hair, so they can feel better about themselves and don't feel different,” Abbey said.

A good attitude is vital when it comes to battling cancer, as with any other illness, Abbey's mom, Elisa Coleman said. “Abbey's dad lived two years longer than the doctors expected him to live because of his attitude. Of course he had some strong motivation,” she added, looking over at her two young children, Abbey, and Harry, 7.

Elisa grew up in Indiana and met Craig, a La Cañada native, at an airport terminal when they were both in between flights. The couple began talking, and shortly thereafter fell in love and married before moving to La Cañada in 1997. On Christmas Eve, 2002, Craig was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died in Sept. 2006.

Craig Coleman lost his hair through his radiation treatments. “But it was kind of stylish to be a bald man with a goatee,” his widow said.

Elisa Coleman and her daughter previously talked about donating their hair to Abbey's daddy, but after he died, the idea formed to use it for other children. However, they had to wait until Abbey's hair was long enough to be usable. There is a minimum of eight inches for Pantene Beautiful Lengths, the organization they selected. Elisa learned about the organization last summer on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's television show, in which actress Hillary Swank launched a campaign to collect one million inches of hair for the organization within one year by cutting off nine inches of her own hair for the cause.

Similar to Locks of Love and other organizations that collect human hair for wigs for cancer victims, Pantene Beautiful Lengths has certain requirements for donated hair. It must be clean, washed, non-color-treated hair, and not more than five percent gray. Hair must be braided before it is cut, and rubber-banded so it stays together. It takes at least six ponytails of hair in order to create one child's wig. Additional information and requirements can be found on its Internet web site

Elisa Coleman said she'd like to see more children and parents, as well as Brownie and Girl Scout troops get involved and donate hair. “Abbey's hair is at a premium, because in a few more years, many kids start dying and messing with their hair,” she said. “No matter which organization you go through, it's good to give of yourself.”

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