By Jackie Stone
The Cove Herald
After his long wavy black hair was cut off, 15-year-old Steven Jaramillo held up the two 10-inch ponytails as if they were prize fish.
"It's so thick. I did not realize it was this thick," he said.
Next to him, his mother, Linda Jaramillo, admired the almost 2-foot-long braid of dark hair that had come from her head.
The mother-son pair went to Hair Artist in Copperas Cove on Tuesday to have several years of hair growth chopped off so they could donate it to Locks of Love.
Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization that takes donated hair and makes wigs for children and teens under 21 years old who have lost their hair from disease and can't afford to buy human hair wigs.
Tanja Weary, owner of the salon, wielded the scissors and said the hair should be enough to make about four wigs.
As a stylist, Weary said she sees what a good or bad haircut can do for a person's outlook and can't imagine what losing hair to cancer would be like.
"Imagine not having it. It's one thing to cut it all off, to choose to. But having it fall out because something invaded your body and took over ...," Weary said as she styled Linda's newly shoulder length hair.
"It's like your crown," Linda said.
Linda said she has grown her hair out to several feet in length several times, but never thought to donate it until her mother-in-law was struck by cancer.
"My mother-in-law passed away from cancer a few years ago. The last photo we have of her, she was completely bald," Linda said. "I never talked to her about wearing a wig or how she felt."
Linda's mother-in-law died several years ago. About three years ago, Linda said she decided to grow her hair out again and donate it to cancer patients.
"I decided, and I thought, 'I should have been giving it all along," she said. "I hope that we can bring awareness to get other people to go out and do this."
Linda convinced her son Steven to start growing his hair out, too about a year and a half ago, the summer before his freshman year of high school.
The teenager, who is involved in band and church activities, said some people gave him a hard time about the long hair, including his best friend, Bianca Ellingson.
After telling her friend to get a haircut every day since he started growing it, Ellingson, 15, came to see Steven's ponytails come off.
"I was probably the worst one," she said.
Afterward Ellingson said she was glad he did it and helped Steven pick out a new, short style.
"Some of my old friends say when they look at me from the back I look like a girl, so hopefully this will stop that," Steven said. "I'm excited, but also kinda nervous. It's a big change."
The Jaramillos planned to mail the hair to Locks of Love. Weary said in her four years owning Hair Artist, she has had two other people come in to donate to Locks of Love.
Weary said she has known the family for several years and thought the donation was a big deal because of what it could mean for people with cancer.
"You never know if a family or a friend is going to be in this position," she said.
"With this, they can stop worrying about their hair and focus on getting better."
Contact Jackie Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow her on Twitter at @KDHcoveeditor.