As a member of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu PTA, Jenny Gurvitz is very involved in the school. But she isn’t satisfied. “We want to do more than help our school,” she says. “We want to make a difference in the entire community.” To this end, the YAYOE PTA partnered with Zichron Menachem, an Israeli organization that provides support for children with cancer and their families. For the first time in Los Angeles, they will be hosting a unique event, Great Lengths for Cancer, where local women and girls will be able to donate their hair to be made into wigs for Israeli children with cancer.
Zichron Menachem, one of the top Israeli charities, currently provides 24-hour support for families battling cancer. It maintains a blood bank and a database of platelet donors available on short notice. It also operates a day center where siblings of children with cancer can come after school and receive help with homework and a hot meal while their parents are busy caring for their sick sibling. Other Zichron Menachem activities include a respite camp for patients, a birthday program to make a sick child’s birthday special, and a support group for parents of children with cancer.
Zichron Menachem is also known for providing wigs, free of charge, to children who lose their hair while undergoing treatment. “This is the first question children ask when diagnosed with cancer – when will I lose my hair?” says Eli Seliger, who has been volunteering for Zichron Menachem for the past thirteen years. By giving them a wig, the organization “gives them back their humanity,” Mr. Seliger adds.
Each wig is custom-made, according to the specific requirements of the child, out of top quality human hair. The wigmakers take the child’s measurements, look at pictures of the child before treatment, and match the color and style to resemble, as much as possible, the child’s own hair.
Last year alone, the organization distributed 1300 wigs. Children are very grateful, explains Mr. Seliger. One girl called the day she received her wig “the best day of her life.” Another girl refused to attend a family bar mitzvah without a wig. Within four days, Zichron Menachem provided her with a beautiful wig, and she was able to attend the simchah.
The hair for wigs is donated by women and girls all over the world: South Africa, Australia, Canada, United States, and England. Some people bring their hair to Zichron Menachem on their trip to Israel, or for their bas mitzvah project. Others donate hair at events similar to the one about to be held in Los Angeles.
The local event will take place on June 14th, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, at Haas and Co Hair Design on Larchmont Boulevard.
“It will be a beautiful experience,” says Mrs. Gurvitz. The donors will feel pampered, she explains. They will receive a certificate from Zichron Menachem, as well as a gift basket. “We want girls to feel beautiful,” says Mrs. Gurvitz. Most importantly, the YAYOE PTA would like the girls to feel good about giving back to the community. “Girls will feel that they made a difference,” adds Mrs. Gurvitz. “They will feel empowered.”
To donate hair, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hair must be at least twelve inches long from where it is cut. And for those who would like to participate, but whose hair is not long enough, the YAYOE PTA is hoping to make this an annual event.