June 26, 2008
This summer, Auburntigers.com will feature weekly stories highlighting community service related activities that current and former student-athletes along with Auburn coaches have been, and will be, participating in. If you know of any former Auburn athletes or coaches that are participating in that you would like to see featured on Auburntigers.com, please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes the simplest gifts can turn out to be the greatest gifts. And when the gift is anonymous, the gift-giver may never know the reaches that their gift can have - especially when it took more than two years to be made.
For Auburn Head Soccer Coach Karen Hoppa, that gift was a 10-inch ponytail that she donated to Locks of Love the week of Auburn's NCAA Tournament game this past November. Though her donation alone would not create a full hair piece, as it takes a minimum of six 10-inch donations to create one hairpiece, it was a labor of love that she was happy to share with someone who she will most likely never know.
"We made the NCAA Tournament on Monday and we were going out of town to Florida on Thursday, so I cut it on Wednesday during our lunch hour," said Hoppa, who regularly keeps her hair up, making it hard for most people to see just how long her hair actually was. "The girls on the team had been giving me a hard time about it all season, telling me it was long enough already, but I just hadn't had time up until then."
With a freshly chopped off pony tail en route to the Lake Worth, Fla., headquarters of Locks of Love, Hoppa returned to practice that afternoon as the Tigers prepared for yet another NCAA Tournament appearance before going home to see her husband, Scott.
"Scott definitely liked it because it was at the length that I had it at when we started dating," Hoppa expressed, who has been married to her college sweetheart since 2002, and who didn't take anyone with her when she made the donation.
"One of the biggest changes for me after getting it cut was that it takes a lot less shampoo and instead of 20 minutes it takes me about five to blow-dry my hair," Hoppa said amidst laughter. "The first time I washed my hair I squirted too much shampoo in my hair and had way too much left over!"
Though there is not a history of the need for her donation to Locks of Love, there was a clear inspiration to how she became a donor. Hoppa tells the following story of how she became interested in the organization.
"What really drew me to it was back in my early years at Auburn one of the football players was doing it. One of the linemen (Ben Nowland) had this really long, blonde hair and I remember thinking the first time that I saw him that his hair looked kind of scraggily. But then I heard through the department that because he didn't have a lot of time to perform community service projects, it was something he could do without missing class and practice time and I thought that was really cool. It stuck in my mind and since I have been at Auburn I thought that would be something good to do."
According to its Web site, "Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers."
Additionally, the mission of the organization 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. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need."
"I have kept it pretty short since I first cut it off, but I would definitely do it again at some point," said Hoppa.
Those wishing to learn more about the organization can visit their Web site at www.locksoflove.org.