While Cory Deer, of Marietta, was sleeping, eating, driving and working over the last 20 months, he was slowly growing his donation to a childhood cancer nonprofit.
One week ago, Deer had finally grown his hair long enough to give it to Children with Hair Loss, where it will be used to make a wig for a child.
It’s a gift Deer said he encourages everyone to give.
“It’s so easy to do,” he said. “When it was time to cut it, (hair stylist Jessica Dailey) put it in braids, cut it and I mailed it in a padded envelope. It was so easy.”
Deer was guided along the way by Dailey and Jessica Blaker at SmartStyle hair salon, who helped him keep his hair healthy and growing as quickly as possible, he said.
“My hope is that this inspires a lot of people to give in some way to these organizations and/or just do something good for others,” he said.
Question: What inspired you to take this on?
Answer: That’s a question everybody asks me and there’s not one real good answer. One main reason is that I’ve always wanted kids and don’t have any so I basically fall in love with everyone else’s kids. I love kids. I have a soft heart for them.
I was friends in high school with Traci Nichols and I think everyone knows the story of her daughter, Ava (who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died at age 6). I also graduated with Nick Morgenstern and his wife Lindsey and they have a daughter, Hailey. A few years back she fought cancer and lost her hair. Thank God she’s still with us. I thought, God blessed me with this thick head of hair. I might as well do something with it.
Q: Was your hair pretty short before you started this process?
A: My hair’s always been really short on the sides and a little longer on top. May 30, 2017 was the last haircut I had until it was cut on Monday (Jan. 21). So, it took me 20 months. I had never grown my hair out before so I didn’t know about split ends. I had split ends for four months before someone told me you have to cut those.
Q: Was it fun at all to try something new or were you just ready to cut it all off?
A: I was ready to get it off because it’s just not me. But it was fun, I enjoyed it. I’m a hair twirler so it gave me some hair to play with. Toward the end it was a little bit bittersweet because I thought I’m getting older and I’ll probably never get to do this again. But then I thought the sooner I get it in, the sooner they can make a wig for a kid who needs it.
Q: What were the reactions you got when you started growing it out?
A: Twenty months later, I was still having to tell people what I was doing. They’d say, “You need a haircut.” I ended up buying a shirt from Children with Hair Loss that said “My next hair cut goes to Children of Hair Loss” and I would wear it sometimes.
Very few relatives liked the long hair. My mom and aunt were the only ones. I also had my 20th high school reunion during that time so it was a shock for everyone there.
Q: Did you feel like there was a difference in how you were perceived by people you didn’t know?
A: Yes, although it could have all been in my head. I heard some comments from some men around here…I heard some people in a restaurant but I ignored it. I put up with it because I wasn’t doing this for me.
Q: How did you end up giving to that particular organization? Did you do a lot of research?
A: I researched it. First, I sent out a feeler for information on Facebook. This was the only organization I could find that didn’t charge kids for wigs. That was really important to me. They give wigs to kids with cancer, alopecia, (Trichotillomania), as well as kids who have been burned. It’s all completely free up until their 21st birthday and they also send them hair care products every year.
Q: What were their guidelines for the hair to be donated?
A: They had the shortest requirement. Most places require 10 inches or 12 but they will take a minimum of 8 inches. They’ll take color treated hair, gray hair…
Q: How did it feel when you finally got the cut?
A: Really, really weird but it felt good. It felt good to be back.
Q: Knowing that the hair was going to help a child must have been a good feeling.
A: The day before, I went back and watched some of the videos of kids getting their wigs, and cried. I thought how glad I was to be doing this.
Kate York conducted this interview.
¯ Age: 39.
¯ Residence: Marietta.
¯ Education: 1998 Fort Frye High School graduate; Bachelors degree in Spanish from The Ohio State University.
¯ Occupation: Chief Policy and Procedures Officer for BD Oil.
Source: Cory Deer.
About Children with Hair Loss
¯ The organization was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Rockwood, Mich.
¯ Founder Regina Villemure was inspired to start Children with Hair Loss after her niece was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 3. She is now a longtime cancer survivor.
¯ Children with Hair Loss provides more than 300 children a year with custom human hair replacements and hair kits.
¯ They have never charged a family for the wigs and products.
¯ For information on how to donate or other ways to help, visit childrenwithhairloss.us
For more on Ava Nichols’ story and how to help local families: