Ponytail donation means hair today is gone tomorrow

04/09/2013 5:25 PM

05/20/2014 10:42 AM

Three years ago, Greg Tugman cheerfully stopped for a haircut before work. When he arrived at his office afterward, the financial manager was handed some grim news. The company was downsizing. He was out of a job.

To thumb his nose at corporate America, Tugman stopped cutting his hair. His wife, Sandy, quit her job as a college professor and they opened up their dream café in downtown Overland Park.

Tugman became a familiar face in the area, with his long ponytail, sunglasses and black beret.

But on Saturday afternoon, he chopped off a foot of his rebellious gray locks for Wigs for Kids, a national not-for-profit organization that provides hair replacement for children affected by chemotherapy, burns and other medical conditions.

With a crowd of amused customers watching, Tugman received his first haircut since 2010 in the courtyard of the Great Day Café.

“I feel completely free,” he giddily told onlookers, with a huge smile. “It’s nice to feel the breeze on my neck again.”

Although he loved his ponytail, Tugman admitted the longer his hair got, the harder it was to manage.

“As a business owner and musician, the ponytail really helped me stand out,” he said. “But it was getting to the point where my wife needed to braid my hair every day before I left the house. When I realized I couldn’t take care of my own hair, that’s when I knew I needed a change.”

When he discovered Wigs for Kids was one of the few organizations that accepts gray hair, he knew he couldn’t pass up such a great opportunity.

“We all give money to charity but to give something you grew is a direct connection,” he said. “I hope they’ll be able to make a good wig out of it.”

He held the haircutting ceremony at his café to encourage people to donate their own hair or pass the word about the organization.

His generosity did encourage one other person — a close friend and faithful customer — to follow in his footsteps.

Tom Townsend of Overland Park, who often frequents the Great Day Café, decided to cut his long gray ponytail as well.

Although when he first saw the scissors coming toward him, he was a bit terrified.

“I wanted to run home,” he said with a laugh. “But now that it’s gone, I really like it. Maybe it’s time not to be a rebel anymore.”

Townsend donated a foot of his locks to Wigs for Kids in memory of his sister-in-law, who passed away from cancer in February.

Both men had their hair styled by Shana Richardson, an Overland Park stylist who donated her time for the cause.

She has no doubt their hair will be very useful to Wigs for Kids. In the past, she’s had several clients donate their long tresses for similar charitable organizations. She currently has a couple clients growing their hair out, so they’ll have the required 12 inches to donate.

It warms her heart to know people are so willing to drastically change their appearance for the sake of charity.

“Kids with cancer have more than one struggle,” she said. “Not only are they sick, but they have to look different than other kids, which is one more thing they shouldn’t have to go through. A wig makes all the difference.”

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