Ponytail Roundup

A cut above

Ponytail Roundup surpasses
goal in successful campaign to
help disadvantaged, ill children

By Jon Bell

Back in February, organizers of the local Ponytail Roundup gave themselves nearly four months to collect 140 ponytails for Locks of Love, an organization that provides natural hairpieces for children who suffer permanent medical hair loss.

Thanks to an outpouring of support, they reached their goal in half the time and are already 32 ponytails into their next target of an additional 140 by Dec. 1, 2002.

"This outpouring of compassion and selflessness has been a mind-blowing experience," said Kendra Mikulec who, along with Canby resident and international champion auctioneer JillMarie Wiles, is one of the driving forces behind the local effort. "To have exceeded our goal . . . we're both just amazed."

The roundup began Feb. 5 when Mikulec, a longtime employee of Cutsforth's Thriftway, auctioned off more than 16 inches of her own hair for Locks of Love. Wiles, who owns Beneficial Auctions in Canby, conducted the auction, which drew a high bid of $450 from local businessman Frank Cutsforth.

Since then, the two women have been busy overseeing the roundup. They had a website set up -- www.ponytailroundup.com -- and have been working with local beauty salons to help recruit donors.

They also have been passing out "tail tags" to prospects who may be willing to part with their hair for Locks of Love.

Mikulec said when she and Wiles pass out the tags, they aren't necessarily asking that person to cut their hair right away. Rather, she said, they're spreading the word about Locks of Love and letting people know they have an option for their long hair should they ever decide to cut it.

"It's more about awareness," Mikulec said. "And we're just saying, when you are ready, don't let (your hair) hit the floor."

A nonprofit organization, Locks of Love reports that it takes 10 to 15 ponytails to make one custom hairpiece for a child. The hairpieces, which can have a retail price of up to $3,500 each, are given to disadvantaged kids ages 18 and under who have lost their hair as a result of cancer treatments, alopecia or burns.

As of June 12, the Ponytail Roundup had gathered 172 ponytails, according to Mikulec. While a majority of the sheered locks have come from the local area -- 90 of the ponytails are from Canby -- many have come from Aurora, Oregon City, Silverton and Portland. Others hail from as far as Eugene, Klamath Falls and Tillamook, and some Locks of Love donors from across the country have attributed their contributions to their discovery of the Canby roundup on the web.

Each ponytail comes attached with a tag that often tells a short story.

One young girl wrote, "I decided to donate because my mom taught me how important it is to help others." Another 7-year-old said she donated because of her grandmother, who had recently lost a battle with cancer.

Milukec said all the stories -- including that of Canby resident and Locks of Love donor Norma Bivens, who had her ponytail cut off in 1948 -- have taken the Ponytail Roundup to another, more personal level.

"The stories are all in my head, and they're all precious," she said. "This is no longer just about hair. This is about every path each donor took to find their way to us."

Wiles is scheduled to travel to Florida in July for the National Auctioneers Convention. While there, she will hand deliver at least 172 ponytails to Locks of Love, which is headquartered in Orlando.

To top off her trip, Wiles will auction the cutting rights for her own ponytail.

Mikulec said the Ponytail Roundup will continue indefinitely, but the December goal of an additional 140 ponytails sets a focused direction for the drive.

IPKOKE, a Eugene company that set up the roundup's website free of charge, has agreed to continue maintaining the site, and Mikulec and Wiles will still recruit donors, accept contributions on behalf of the roundup, and, in general, continue promoting the Locks of Love cause.

Shorter or longer hair, gray hair, and permed or color-treated hair are all acceptable. And, like the 54-year-old ponytail donated by Bivens, Mikulec said "hair is timeless as long as it's clean and dry when it's cut."

In addition, cash donations can be made at any branch of Columbia River Bank. Donations are tax deductible.

For more information, call 503-824-3960, or visit www.ponytailroundup.com.

Among a long list of local businesses and individuals Mikulec and Wiles wish to thank for their support are: Frank Cutsforth, IPKOKE, Joanne Rabun, OCTS Channel 5, the Canby Herald, Andy McDavid and Front Street Photography, the Canby Kiwanis Club, Dianne Helgerson, Canby Hair Design, International Hair Design, Grant Street Hair, Columbia River Bank, Canby Postal Annex, and Hair of Today.