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Girl fights illnesses and gives to others
Stafford girl with severe disabilities donates hair to Locks of Love

 Cheryl Rogers holds Stephanie's hand at their home while a nurse attaches her feeding tube. 'It has been really rough but we make it through,' she said.
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Date published: 6/1/2010

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE

Strangers tend to notice Stephanie Rogers' hair.

The 11-year-old's thick, curly, brown locks receive a lot of attention.

And Stephanie loves the admiring words and glances. She doesn't talk much--with cerebral palsy, Stephanie is pretty much nonverbal.

She receives special-education services at home through Stafford County schools.

Stephanie's brown eyes light with joy when people compliment her tresses, which fall past her knees.

"She's always been very proud of her hair," said mom Cheryl Rogers.

A year ago, Stephanie was in the hospital with pneumonia and her mom thought about donating some of Stephanie's long curls to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that uses donated hair to make wigs for children who've lost their hair.

But Cheryl wanted to make sure her daughter was ready to part with her hair. Stephanie communicates mainly by blinking.

A single blink means "yes." A series of blinks is more emphatic.

Cheryl asked, "Would you like to cut your hair?"

Stephanie blinked slowly.

"Would you like to give your hair to sick children?"

The blinks came in rapid succession.

So Cheryl brought her daughter to the hair salon.

At the time, Stephanie's hair was long. But not long enough. Locks of Love accepts only hair donations longer than 10 inches.

They decided to wait. And that wait turned into a year as Stephanie battled through some illnesses and was in and out of hospitals.

Last week, she was at Get'n Snip'y hair salon on Deacon Road in Stafford County for the event.

And while Cheryl had been very proud of Stephanie's decision to donate her hair, she couldn't stop blinking back tears as hairdresser Linda Randall brought the scissors out.

Stephanie's home nurse, Nancy Ruiz, also started to cry. Ruiz often washes Stephanie's long tresses, an event the girl seems to find soothing.

Stephanie's younger bro-ther, Christopher, was all for the cut, though.

"You can actually cut her hair, because it bothers me in the car," the preschooler said.

Stephanie sits in front of him in the family minivan, and her long ponytail tickles him during rides.

Stephanie herself just yawned as the scissors came out.

"All right, Steph!" Randall said. "Here goes, baby."

And with a simple snip, it was done.

Stephanie donated about 12 inches of hair, and had 12 left, Randall said.

"It's still very, very long and luxurious," Cheryl murmured to Stephanie.

She put the hair in a clear plastic bag, so she could mail it to Locks of Love.

She trimmed the cut, then held a hand mirror in front of Stephanie.

"See, doesn't it look beautiful?" Randall asked.

Stephanie looked into the mirror for a moment.

Then, very slowly, she blinked.

locksoflove.org

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Email: aumble@freelancestar.com