Mary Skates hadn't cut her hair since she was 7 years old.
Now a freshman at UCLA, she sat nervously in the James West Alumni Center waiting for a Vidal Sassoon stylist to chop off her flaming, waist-length red hair. Twenty inches and zero dollars later, Skates had a brand new look. Her carefully measured and bagged leftover hair is now on its way to give someone else a brand new look.
The free haircut was part Thursday's fourth annual Locks of Love charity event hosted by the UCLA Alumni Association. About 60 Sassoon Academy students, teachers and stylists spent the day with hundreds of students, staff and community members who had come by to donate at least 10 inches of their hair. The donations are used to make wigs for children who have lost their hair due to illnesses like cancer and alopecia.
The event was organized by the UCLA Alumni Scholars Club, comprised of students who received scholarships to attend the school.
"The point is to give back what you've been given to the community," said Danielle Ross, a second-year student and coordinator on the club's campus volunteers committee.
"Last year I cut 10 inches. It was a liberating experience. I cried, not because I was losing my hair, but because we worked so hard for the event, and it's nice to see it come fill circle," she said.
The event collected more than 2,500 inches of hair last year, enough to make roughly 40 wigs.
The cause behind the cut was a comfort to many of the men and women who, like Skates, were getting their hair cut for the first time in years.
"I've been wanting to cut it for a while, but I was sort of just waiting it out," Skates said. "But it's better to give it to a cause than just have it thrown away."
And we're not just talking about lopping off ponytails and sending the donors on their way. Each appointment was at least one and a half hours long and included the careful consult, quality haircut and complete styling that come with the Sassoon name.
"They have a great standard for their styles," said Michelle Weyek, advisor to the Alumni Scholar's Club. "They don't let people walk out without a great haircut."
If you missed your chance at a free cut this year, you can catch the event again next year. Locks of Love accepts mailed donations year round.