By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE September 10, 2002 Kassie and Katie Thelman had more than new duds to head back to school in last week.
The Bethel siblings were sporting new haircuts thanks to Beth Bernitt of Mane Street Styles in Jeffersonville.
And their long tresses are on their way to Locks of Love in Lake Worth Fla., a non-profit agency which fashions wigs for disadvantaged children suffering from a medical condition which causes them to lose their own hair.
The sisters, 8 and 15 years old respectively, have been wanting to cut their long, thick locks for a long time.
But when Bernitt told them that a child suffering from cancer or alopecia (an auto-immune condition which causes severe hair loss) could really use their hair, they decided to wait.
The girls filed into Bernitts shop earlier this summer after months of brushing and styling their long, thick hair and climbed into her chair.
Chop it off, they said.
Each had 10 inches of hair, never damaged by dyes or other chemicals, which was pulled back in a ponytail, snipped, and placed in a bag to be sent to Locks of Love.
According to Bernitt, the hair has to be handled according to the organizations rules, right down to how its bagged, or it cant be used for the program.
But Bernitt has been participating in the program from her Jeffersonville shop for years. She gives a free haircut to the folks who pony up at least 10 inches for the cause, and shes got all the rules down pat.
So when the Thelman girls filed into her shop with mom Laurie in tow, she was ready.
Laurie was proud of the efforts of her youngest and eldest children.
I think the girls are proud that another child will benefit from their hair, she noted. And its a really good cause.
The girls have both known people affected by cancer. Their grandfather passed away after a battle with lung cancer, and the girls both attend the Jeff-Youngsville campus of the Sullivan West school where fifth grader Lauren Hughson went to school before succumbing to cancer earlier this year.
It was a cause that touched their hearts, Laurie noted, and it was a nice way to get ready for the school year.
Besides, she added, both the girls have been sporting long-haired looks since they were young, and their new dos look much better.
These were the first little girls from the area that Bernitt has had a chance to involve in the Locks of Love campaign. Shes had adults sit down in her chair and submit to Bernitts scissors as she chopped off a long ponytail full of hair.
Shes had one man participate, and one local woman agreed to send out her hair not once but twice after months of growing it.
But its hard to find people qualified for the program, she noted. Many people have dyed their hair, making it inappropriate for use.
However, she noted, if someone has six inches instead of the required 10 inches, it can be sent to Locks of Love and the organization will sell it to help keep the program running. Bernitts free haircuts are limited to those who can cut off the full 10 inches however, so that a child can receive a wig.
Its part of my policy, she noted. I thought it was a good way to use my talents to do something for someone who needs it.
But Bernitt said the Thelmans may have had the biggest effect on her since she began participating with Locks of Love.
When this 8-year-old walked in and told me she was cutting her hair off, it brought tears to my eyes, she said.
The girls are the daughters of Laurie and Bill Thelman of Bethel. They have a sister, Kellee, at home.