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Hair salon offers cuts for a cause

(ran PC edition)

The Dade City shop's co-owner will donate his hair to a South Florida group that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair.

Ever since he was a teenager, Danny Charles has worn his hair long. The last time he cut it short was about a decade ago when he drove a truck for Coca-Cola.

"They had pretty strict guidelines," he said. "They were always telling me to get it cut. But the women seem to like it long, even my mother."

This weekend, Charles, 44, plans to shear 10 inches from his dark, curly mane. Only this time, he's doing it for kids in need.

As part of the grand opening of Distinctive Hair Designs in Dade City, Charles will donate his locks to a South Florida group that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair due to illness.

What's more, Nancy and Danny Charles, who opened the Clinton Avenue shop in January, will give a free haircut to anyone who makes a similar commitment to Locks of Love, a non-profit group based in Palm Springs.

"We had heard about it from a friend, and I thought it was just a great thing to do for the kids," Danny Charles said. "I knew I was going to do it, and it just happened to work out with our grand opening."

Featured on Oprah and in newspapers around the country, Locks of Love has provided free, custom-made hairpieces to more than 130 children since it began in 1997.

The group's Web site, at www.locksoflove.org, lists biographies and testimonials from some of the children who have been helped.

One, a 12-year-old named Monica, writes: "I saw my face in the mirror, framed in something beautiful. I looked like a normal junior high girl."

Another, 8-year-old Samantha, lost her hair during treatment for alopecia areata, an auto-immune condition.

"I'm so proud of my new look," she wrote after receiving a Locks of Love hairpiece. "I have not stopped smiling."

Nancy Charles, who moved to Dade City from Tampa three years ago, said a 10-year-old client of hers told her about the Locks of Love program.

"She found it on the Internet and donated her hair to it," she said. "I've been donating clients' hair to them for the past year and a half."

The rules for donating to the program are simple: Hair must be at least 10 inches long and bundled in a pony-tail or braid. It cannot be damaged from chemicals and must be clean and dry.

Twelve donated ponytails are used to make each hair prosthetic, which are vacuum-fit to the child's head. Purchased from a private company, the hairpieces would run as high as $3,000 each.

Although Locks of Love is a non-profit charitable organization, hair donations are not tax-deductible. (The reason: Hair is considered a body part by the Internal Revenue Service.)

Danny Charles, who goes by "the Hairinator" at the shop, began growing his hair just for the grand opening in December.

"I would say about the last 3 inches were specifically for Locks of Love," he said. "Otherwise, I might have at least trimmed it a little."

Nancy Charles will do the honors at a Saturday morning "hair-cutting ceremony." That is, unless someone first makes a $1,000 donation to the youth ministry at her church, First Baptist of Dade City. That donor will get to do the cutting themselves.

"They can do the length part, and I can do the top," she said. "I'm thinking a short, executive-style cut. Maybe some highlights."

Danny Charles' mother, who has gotten used to his long hair over the years, said she is happy he's cutting it for a good cause.

"It's great what he's doing," said Leona Charles, 64. "But I'm one of the women that prefers his hair long."

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