No barbers or salons, but COVID-19 did increase hair donations

One nonprofit called it the 'rainbow in the storm'
Posted at 8:57 AM, May 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 08:57:16-04

(WSYM) — It’s been a tough year – there’s no denying that. But over 365 days into a pandemic that crippled business and cast a dark shadow over society, there may have been one good thing to come out of it.

“People were forced to grow their hair out because the salons were closed down,” says Maggie Varney of St. Clair Shores. “There’s always a rainbow in every storm.”

You may not have felt that way – shaggy and un-sheared – but to Maggie, it’s all she could ask for. She’s the founder and CEO of Maggie’s Wigs4Kids of Michigan, and this year, proverbial business was booming.

Because people were forced to grow their hair and leave it untreated in the void of salons and barbershops, the donor pool increased substantially, and people felt compelled to lend their hair to a good cause.

“Then they give us the hair; they feel like they’re giving you a kidney or something,” said Maggie. “It’s very important psychologically and emotionally, but also socially.”

In the last year, Maggie’s Wigs4Kids received 17,700 donations, which allowed them to make and give away, all for free, 5,000 wigs to people who need them.

At their annual hair donation drive this year, Sparrow Health received a record 487 donations. St. Baldrick’s is pushing off their in-person event until August in anticipation of a good-sized, in-person crowd and work with the group Children With Hair Loss to donate wigs.

Maggie says her organization has seen a year-over-year increase since 2013. They don’t waste a strand and make wigs for all kinds and colors of hair, taking into account ethnicity also.

They work with cancer and alopecia patients, but also burn survivors, people with trichotillomania, blood disorders, diabetes, lupus and Down syndrome. Oftentimes hair loss can be a side effect of other medications.

Maggie says the donations are always about much, much more than hair.

“It’s about a sense of belonging; it’s about fitting in - the normalcy,” said Maggie. “And it gives them hope because they look in the mirror and they recognize the person they see looking back at them.”

For more information or for instructions on donating, visit Maggie’s Wigs4Kids at their website.