PUBLISHED: 4:52 PM on Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Teachers, Students Give Hair
Mendenhall River Community School

Photo by Amy Steffian
  Locks of Love donors, from left, Mindy Barry, Kelsey Classen, Naavah Spady, and Sarah Selvig.
The students in Mindy Barry's first grade class at Mendenhall River School are learning much more than reading and writing. They are learning compassion.

Moved by friends recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and a grandmother celebrating 40 years cancer free, Barry sought a way to help those fighting the disease. She decided to give a little piece of herself - her beautiful red hair. Barry began growing her hair for Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children suffering medial hair loss.

A teacher, Barry also saw the experience as a chance to educate her students. When her hair reached the appropriate length, she prepared her class for a dramatic change in her appearance by inviting a former student to share a personal story of cancer.

In a classroom meeting, a young girl told of her experiences with leukemia, of enduring many needle sticks and loosing her own hair. Barry's students listened attentively and asked questions. They were touched by the child's frankness

and better understood their teacher's wish to help. According to Barry the lesson "made it real for the students, as they saw that the girl was one of them."

Her entire life, Barry has received compliments about her hair, soft amber tresses that surround her gentle face. What took a year and a half to grow took just seconds to cut off at Salon 22-11. Rather than ship the hair directly to Locks of Love, however, Barry took it back to the classroom.

She returned with stylish bob and a 10-inch pony tale in hand. Her students were thrilled.

"Everyone wanted to touch my hair" Barry said, "and many students said 'Oh, Mrs. Barry you look so pretty.'"

Barry is one of several people in the MRCS community to make this unusual, caring gift. Computer teacher Saran Selvig and her daughter, first-grader Naavah Spady, grew out their thick blonde hair last summer and went together to make a donation to Locks for Love. A grandmother's battle with cancer also inspired their gift.

Kelsey Classen, a second grader, cut 10 inches off her sleek brown tresses. Her gift went to a child she will never meet, but who she knows needed a helping hand.