"Big Hairy Deal" - Sending Love Through Locks

Making a big hair style change can be nerve racking, but when cutting your hair means those without locks will have a new look too, it can be well worth the change. That's at what people at the 3rd Annual "Big Hairy Deal" event in Neillsville said on Sunday.

The event was started by Jade Gross and her family. Gross has had an autoimmune skin disease that makes her lose her hair, called Alopecia Areata, since she was five. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation said the disease "usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (Alopecia Totalis) or complete body hair loss (Alopecia Universalis)," like what Gross has. It is a disease that she said comes with a lot of self esteem battles, especially since she does not wear a wig.

"Society today is so focused on looks and hair especially with girls and I don't have eyebrows eyelashes," she said. "I would get teased on, called 'baldy,' but everything, I think, just made me strong and the person I am today...people need to broaden their definition of beauty."

The event was meant to bring awareness to the disease, as well as raise money for the foundation, and give people a chance to donate their hair to give others with this condition a little more confidence. More than $1600 was collected for the NAAF and 19 people chopped off their hair and donated it to Locks of Love. Each donor had to give at least ten inches of hair. Although most people believe locks of love wigs often go to cancer patients, Gross said most of the donations actually go to people with Alopecia Areata.

There were a lot of anxious faces as the locks fell and some like Joe Galetka have been putting the endeavor off for years due to nerves.

"I was very nervous coming in here and I'm still kind of. I can't believe I did it," he said uneasily. "It feels breezy. It feels breezy."

Julie Carlsen also had a difficult time as more than 20 inches came off.

"It's cooler back here! It feels great though," she said.

Michelle Pickett has been donating her hair for the past eight years and loves to do it.

"I'm a cancer survivor and luckily I didn't lose my hair, so I thought it was a nice way to give back to those who would need it," she said.

Gross said people without hair need to find a way to be comfortable in their own bodies.

"If that is getting a wig and wearing that, do so. If not, you know, like me, be comfortable with just yourself," she said.

Hairdressers from Mainstreet Hair and Nails of Neillsville, Hair Paradise of LaCrosse, and Smart Style of Marshfield donated their services to give the people giving their hair a fresh new style. Midnight Entertainment of Black River Falls also donated DJ talent and plan to provide free music for the next two years. Next year's "Big Hairy Deal" will be hosted by the Gamma Sigma Sigma sorority at UW Stout. If you would like to donate to the cause, you can visit http://www.naaf.org.

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