St. Ursula Academy senior Emily Czarka sat down yesterday morning, clutched the hands of her friends, and prepared to say good-bye to something most girls her age hold very dear.
She closed her eyes and gasped as scissors started cutting through a fistful of her dark blond hair.
Classmates and friends cheered and shrieked as a stylist bound together seven inches of Miss Czarka's hair and then slowly cut it off.
She was among nearly 40 St. Ursula students who parted with much of their hair - donating the severed ponytails to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that supplies wigs to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
Many of the girls reacted the same way when the scissors started cutting.
"Oh my God!" was heard repeatedly throughout the school's gymnasium.
Miss Czarka has been growing her hair to donate for five years, since her best friend was diagnosed with leukemia. Before that, her father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Now, her father and friend are both in remission.
"I was really nervous, but I am so glad I did this because it's for a good cause," she said.
"My friend was in the hospital for six months and she lost her hair."
Principal Jane McGee said she was elated so many students chose to donate.
"Hair is such a personal thing and when you understand that, this is an important thing," she said.
The event is part of the St. Ursula's Lenten service project. Last year, students from the school donated 250 inches of hair.
Senior Alyx Kendrzierski didn't hesitate a moment or quietly whimper like some of her classmates when it was her turn. Her friend died recently of leukemia.
"I was going to give my hair to her, but someone is going to get it," she said.
Miss Kendrzierski had one of 12 stylists from Camelot Salon, who donated their time at the school, take off 16 inches of her hair - which was believed to be the longest cut of the day.
Dianne Babiuch, owner of the salon in Springfield Township, decided to donate her employees' time last year when one of her daughters - a former St. Ursula student - came up with the idea for the event.
"I just think it's an important cause, and I had a child die of a brain tumor," Ms. Babiuch said. "Ever since that happened, it made me realize how much need there is for people to help other people."
Courtney Cobb, also a senior, made a last-minute donation of her billowing strawberry blond hair.
"I wanted to sign up, but they didn't have any spots open," Miss Cobb, 17, said. "So I'm going to see if I can slide in and get it cut."
Minutes later, friends were cheering her on as she went under the scissors.
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