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It's a guy thing: Stafford man grows ponytail for Locks of Love

 Justin Burns had been growing his hair since September 2008.
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Date published: 3/28/2010


The hair stylist's hand held steady, her scissors suspended over Justin Burns' long, wavy ponytail.

"It's not too late," someone remarked from a nearby chair in the beauty shop. "You can still change your mind."

But no, Burns sat still in his chair and looked straight into the mirror. Aggie Labbe's scissors went "snip."

And, just like that, the ponytail Burns had been growing since 2008 was gone.

Well, not gone, exactly. Burns' mom, Linda, slipped it into a zipper-lock bag so he could later mail it to Locks of Love. The national organization accepts hair to be made into wigs for children experiencing long-term hair loss because of medical conditions.

Burns, 23, who lives in the Hartwood area of Stafford County, is among a minority of men who participate.

"Men are definitely in the minority, although it does seem somewhat of a growing trend," Lauren Kukkamaa, Locks of Love communications director, wrote in an e-mail. She estimated that between 5 percent and 10 percent of donors are male.

Burns, happy to add to the numbers, began his personal growing trend in September of 2008.

He'd heard of the organization before, and found himself especially inspired by an article about a woman who donated her long hair to Locks of Love when she was about to enter military service.

He decided he also wanted go the extra length to help those in need. His hair grew to 13 inches and stretched to below his elbow before he couldn't stand the ponytail any longer.

"Now I can relate to those women out there with long hair. It can get tangled a lot," he said in an interview.

He compromised a bit, allowing his father, Joe, to trim the sides short.

"It's so '80s-style. Real short in the front and long in the back," said Burns, a student at Germanna Community College, where he is studying to become certified in Web design. He is employed at Rappahannock Goodwill Industries.

Burns won't know who receives his hair, but he hopes his gesture will help someone feel better during a trying time.

He has seen advertisements about St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, for instance, and his heart goes out to the young patients.

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Locks of Love's mission, as stated on its Web site, is "to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children." Recipients have long-term or permanent hair loss resulting from conditions such as alopecia areata, or from radiation, chemotherapy, burns or other trauma. The organization has helped about 3,000 children, according to Lauren Kukkamaa, communications director. For more information, check the Web site, locksoflove.org. The organization is based in West Palm Beach, Fla.