Girl donates hair to help others

By Kami Collins


New backpack for the new school year? Check.

New notebooks, crayons, glue and scissors? Check.

Back-to-school haircut? Check.

Help another kid? Check and check.

Last week, as seven-year-old Gabbie Gallenbeck sat in the stylist's chair at Beyond the Salon in Delta, she wasn't just getting her annual back-to-school haircut -- she was making sure that with every snip of the scissors some other kid would have a much-needed wig, made of real hair -- hers.

This is the second time Gabbie has donated her hair to Children With Hair Loss, a 501c3 organization based in Michigan, that provides real-hair wigs to children who have medically-related hair loss. Kids in the program never pay a dime for the wigs, and they get a replacement once a year.

Giving and generosity is something Meghan and Ty Gallenebeck strive to teach Gabbie and her younger sister Jessie. But the desire to give something to another child resonated with Gabbie on a different level. When she was four years old, during a routine eye exam, doctors noticed an abnormality. More tests led to a diagnosis of congenital glaucoma, a difficult surgery at Children's Hospital in Denver on both eyes, and a stint in her left eye. It was a scary time for the four-year-old, and for her friends and family.

A couple months after her surgery, Gabbie was watching a show when a commercial came on that showed a little girl who didn't have any hair. Meghan said that Gabbie was curious about why the girl didn't have hair. "We talked about how Gabbie has a rare disease, and how other rare diseases can cause people to lose their hair," Meghan said. When Gabbie asked if the kids were able to get wigs, her mom and dad explained that there are programs where people donate their hair to make wigs. "And she said right away, 'I want to do that!'" Meghan remembers her daughter saying.

Just a month later, she made her first donation to Children With Hair Loss. The Gallenbecks chose that organization specifically because they make the wigs available at no cost to children, and also because their focus is on children -- and Gabbie wanted to help another child through her donation.

For the past two years, Gabbie has been growing her hair in anticipation of her second donation. Her stylist, Kristin Logan, cut off nine inches of Gabbie's gorgeous, silky pale red locks, and prepped the hair to be sent to Michigan, where it will be made into a wig and given to a child in need. Gabbie said it feels good to donate her hair. Even though she enjoys the way her new short hair looks and feels, she's already planning to let it grow again, so she can make another donation. "I'm going to grow my hair again. I'm going to donate again. I like doing it," she said.

Gabbie is a second grader at Garnet Mesa Elementary School.