, Derry, New Hampshire

January 17, 2013

LHS effort is on the cutting edge

LHS students and staff donate hair for cancer patients

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — Miranda Marchetti clutched a plastic bag and waited for the cutting to begin.

Two long ponytails were hanging from the Londonderry High School senior’s head as her friends sat behind her to cheer her on.

Those friends would be cutting Miranda’s hair.

“I trust them,” she said. “These are all my best friends.”

Miranda was one of 169 donors participating in the school’s seventh annual Pantene Beautiful Lengths “Day of Giving” event Jan. 11. Students, teachers and community members cut their hair to support those battling cancer.

The ponytails collected will go support Pantene and the Hair-U-Wear program making wigs for cancer patients of all ages through the American Cancer Society.

“Everyone sitting in these stands has created this day,” Londonderry High teacher and event organizer Steve Juster said at the rally. “For all of you, this is your day.”

Juster calls the donors his “angels” and shared stories of hope and survival that inspired people to grow their hair for a good cause.

Some students were donating their hair in honor of family members who battled cancer. Others wanted to somehow make a difference in someone’s life.

Senior Serina Brenner was a repeat donor.

Her mother Chris, a breast cancer survivor, sat nearby, flanked by many of Serina’s friends who wanted to be part of the experience.

Alana Fanaritis lost her father to cancer recently and had her mother, Mona, in the crowd to cheer her on as she donated her hair again.

“Aly was one of our original ‘angels,’” Juster said. “She told me she wanted her mother to come today to see the sacrifice these angels are making to comfort people suffering in the fight of their lives.”

Noah Paradis was one of only two young men donating their hair. He sat on the floor, waiting for his long locks to be cut for one reason only.

“My Nana got lung cancer and never smoked,” he said. “It could happen to anyone. Chemo makes you feel bad and girls shouldn’t have to be bald.”

Londonderry High chemistry teacher Chrystena Ewen was donating for the third time.

Alex Horton, and brothers Andrew and Matt Bompastore would be doing Ewen’s cutting honors. All have been touched by cancer in their families. Ewen said she wanted the boys to cut her hair this year.

“Part of the experience should be for them to be here,” she said in her donation statement.

Alex said Ewen has coached him in swimming for many years.

Being asked to cut her hair made him happy, he said.

“I am honored,” he said.

Once the “3, 2, 1” countdown was given, it only took a few moments for a lot of hair to be cut.

Local hair stylists helped donors style their shorter hair once the cutting was finished. Area salons also brought in donations of hair to add to Londonderry’s efforts.

Through the years, the rally has gained national attention, including being featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America in 2007.

Since then, more than 2,000 donations have come from Londonderry to help those battling cancer.

The giving continues in Londonderry all year long.

“I had 52 ponytails in my desk drawer,” Juster said. “Barely a week goes by when a ponytail is not brought to me or placed in my mailbox.

People will cut their hair and bring in ponytails at different times during the year to keep the efforts going.

“Someone comes in with a ponytail and a story,” Juster said. “That’s the impact.”

He said Londonderry High graduates return every year to take part in the Beautiful Lengths event. This year, donors also included town officials and family members.

“Everyone here inspires each other,” he said.

Students also were recognized for their efforts supporting other causes, including local food pantries, pediatric cancer patients, Toys for Tots and CPR events.

“It’s an incredible journey for me,” Juster said. “I spend the entire year talking to these people.”

Juster said other schools are hoping to inspire their own communities to hold similar events. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats will also honor the Pantene Beautiful Lengths cause on May 24 and three Londonderry students — Marissa Beaton, Tori Sailor and Michaela Ginadello — will throw out the first pitch