Girls to sacrifice hair for friend
February 6, 2005
Katie Warnecke knew it was coming. The doctors already had explained the side effects of the chemotherapy. Still, it was a little hard for the 12-year-old, accustomed to gel and hairspray before school in the mornings, to run her fingers through her strawberry-blond mane. "It started coming out in handfuls, so I cut it off," she said, eyes barely peeking out from under her neon-orange hat.
When Katie's friends Leslie and Rachel Donald first heard about her illness, they took it pretty hard. Cancer is a scary word, especially when it hits so close to home. But a trip to the hospital cured their fears. "She looked tired," Leslie said, "But she was still Katie."
Leslie, 11, and Rachel, 9, have known Katie for several years. They attend the same church, play on the same sports teams and spend lots of free time together. So, naturally, when their friend started losing her hair, the girls wanted to help. On Tuesday, they'll both cut their hair - something they've never done - and donate it to Wigs for Kids, an organization that makes wigs out of human hair for young cancer patients.
To Donate Hair
Mail hair donations in Katie’s honor to Wigs for Kids, 21330 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River, Ohio 44116. Clean, dry hair must be 12 inches in length, secured with rubber bands and placed in a plastic bag. Information: www.wigsforkids.org
"Their hair will grow back, but there will never be another Katie," said mom Georgia Donald. She is a very special girl." Coincidentally, hair always has been a running joke for the girls. Both Leslie's and Rachel's had grown past the back pockets of their jeans. Katie, whom the girls describe as quite the prankster, was famous for pulling out the ties that held their braids in place. "It's so long we wouldn't even know it," Leslie said. "But she'd be standing in front of us with the rubber band and laughing." Katie just laughed. "I don't know what they're talking about," she said.
To keep Katie busy while she was hospitalized, the girls thought it would be funny to send her an oversized My Little Pony doll - with long braided hair. They even put tiny scrunchies inside the envelope with the card. Katie called later to tell the sisters she had unbraided the doll's mane.
It takes at least 12 to 15 ponytails, each 12-inches long, to make a wig. Leslie and Rachel have no guarantee their hair will make it into a wig made specifically for their friend. Still, the girls will climb into a hairdresser's chair Tuesday and say goodbye to nearly 2 feet of hair.
Katie said she doesn't want them to cut it, but her fingers betray her as she continues to play with Rachel's light brown tresses. "They have long hair, and I have none," she said, almost to herself.
Readers first met Katie in mid-January in a column about her prayer pager. Katie's church had given her the pager and sent e-mails to everyone they knew, asking them to say a prayer for her and then page her to let her know. Since then, she has received a total of 13,000 pages - so many the pager company thought something was wrong and shut it off for a day.
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