Emily Raymond was just 1 when her hair first starting falling out.
She was diagnosed with an autoimmune form of alopecia, where Emily’s immune system attacks hair follicles, preventing new hair from growing.
As a young girl, Emily covered her head with hats or bandanas. But since seventh grade, the now 17-year-old Land O’ Lakes High School senior has worn wigs,
“When I got my first wig, I didn’t really want to wear it,” Raymond said. “I was just afraid to, I guess.”
Good wigs, especially those made from natural human hair, are expensive, ranging in price from $700 to $2,000, she said. That’s why nonprofit groups like Locks of Love are so needed.
“I am definitely grateful,” said Raymond, who plans to attend Pasco-Hernando Community College next year to begin studying to become a dental hygienist. “It’s wonderful that people want to grow their hair out and donate it to for others to wear.”
That’s what Audrey Pease, a Mary Kay cosmetics sales consultant, decided to do for Raymond. Pease met her when Raymond was just 12. Her son and Raymond’s brother attended Boy Scout meetings together, and Raymond would tag along.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on with her,” Pease said. “But when I learned what was wrong, and what it costs to buy wigs, I knew I had to help.”
Pease tried a fundraiser through Mary Kay, raising $100 for a wig. But as an encore, Pease decided to add something to this year’s fundraiser — she would actually donate some of her hair.
“I’d been growing it for three years, and I didn’t want to get it cut until it was long enough to help Emily,” Pease said.
Locks of Love, which started in 1997, requires hair donations to be at least 10 inches long. It has to be bundled in a ponytail or braid, and cannot be bleached. Pease had 12 inches of hair ready to go, and it took just seconds for stylist Lucy Rosado to cut it away.
“I love my new haircut,” Pease said afterward. “My hair had been getting in my face a lot, and made it hard for me to turn my head while I was driving. It’s shorter now than what it was when I first started to grow it out, so it will take some getting used to.”
Pease’s hair will not necessarily go to Raymond. However, such donations can save Locks of Love money from acquiring hair from other sources, thus bringing their overall costs down. The nonprofit does sell hair it doesn’t or can’t use, a controversial practice it says is necessary to help offset manufacturing costs. That includes shorter and gray hair.
While Raymond won’t benefit directly from Pease’s hair donation, she will benefit from Pease’s latest fundraiser. Through Nov. 15, Pease is donating 40 percent of her Mary Kay sales to help Raymond get a new wig.
“That’s pretty much everything I make from the sale,” Pease said. “But it’s absolutely worth it.”
Raymond has two wigs custom-made for her right now, but she really only uses one. At one point she had four, but she donated two of hers to a family friend who also was losing her hair.
“I joke around with my friends that I could just get a bunch of different-colored wigs, and wear a different wig each and every day,” Raymond said. “I want to do it.”
For more information on Audrey Pease’s fundraising benefit for Emily Raymond, visit tinyurl.com/RaymondLocks.