Those who know me personally know that I grow my hair out to donate for kids. I have donated a couple of times to Locks of Love. This past Saturday I participated in a hair collection drive led by 11 year-old Sarah Brotman:
I've known Sarah and her mom for a while now, and this is something that has been close to Sarah's heart because even as a younger child she grew her hair out to donate. In fact, her and her mom were two of my biggest encouragers to grow my hair out. For this collection drive, Sarah did the legwork to find someone who would collect the hair and give free haircuts to those who donated. Because of Sarah's efforts, it looks like Wella Professionals School (mentioned in the second link) may be looking to do this on a regular schedule. I hope so as it's a win-win for them because they are able to give back to the community and their students get more experience. And ultimately it benefits children who have lost hair due to alopecia, cancer, or another medical issue.
It does take a little while to grow hair out long enough to be donated. A former pastor of mine who worked as a barber to help pay his way through seminary said hair grew at an average rate of a half inch a month. From the little bit of research I've done on the web, that seems a bit right. The shortest accepted length is a ponytail of 8" so it will likely take about 18 months if you normally wear your hair short. However, the need is there because it takes a minimum of 6 to as many as 25 ponytails to make a child's wig.
I don't know if I'll be able to grow my hair for another donation because there is a lot of gray creeping in. Pantene, for instance, only accepts the hair if it's no more than 5% gray because gray hair doesn't absorb dyes at the same rate as normal hair. I'm starting to push that limit. But if your hair doesn't have much gray in it, it's a worthwhile cause.
If you want to see what goes into making a wig, here's a step-by-step: