Laura Pagens was determined to find a memorable way to celebrate her 50th birthday.
"I'm a single mom, I don't have family or many friends, and my child is too young to plan anything for my birthday, so I thought I could do nothing or I could do something special," said Pagens, a Surrey resident.
One night, she saw an ad on TV touting the charitable ways of Wigs for Kids, a B.C.-based organization that collects donated hair for wigs used by children with cancer and other illnesses.
With that, Pagens made an appointment to have her cut and given to the charity on the day before her birthday in September.
"They cut off about 10 inches of hair," Pagens said with a nervous laugh.
"At first, I didn't really want to have my hair cut because I hadn't had it short since I was two or three years old," she added. "It's always been quite long.. But this is a great cause, and my concerns about having short hair were greatly outweighed by the benefits of the rewards to the receiver of my hair."
When Pagens returned to her government job with shorter hair, she told her story to those who inquired about her new look.
In the process, she inspired two co-workers to also donate their hair to Wigs for Kids B.C.
Colleague Shelley Metcalfe is now raising pledges in her bid to donate her hair during the third annual Hennessey Hair "Do" in Richmond on Jan. 13. At the event, stylists will cut and style hair for minimum donations - $20 for men, $40 for women. For those who raise at least $40 in pledges, the cut is free.
The Hair "Do" is dedicated to the memory of Megan McNeil, the North Delta teen musician who died of cancer two years ago.
The Wigs for Kids ad Pagens saw on TV featured a message from Suzanne McNeil, Megan's mom.
"That ad really touched me," Pagens said, "and it got me thinking that I'd like to do something for that organization."
At any given time, there are more than 1,000 children undergoing cancer treatment at B.C.
Children's Hospital, according to Wigs for Kids B.C. chairwoman Bev Friesen. The majority of these kids will lose their hair temporarily, she said, and in some cases the loss will be permanent.
"Human-hair wigs costs between $1,000 to $3,000 - a price too steep for most families to afford, and wigs aren't covered by insurance or any other program," Friesen told the Now. "Many families are already facing financial hardship due to leaving their jobs to care for their sick child."
Having a proper-fitting wig that looks and feels like the real thing is important to the child's recovery, she added.
"Some children are so upset when they lose their hair, they refuse to return to school," Friesen said. "Some even refuse to leave the house.
Having a wig means that when they are able to resume their normal activities, their baldness is one question they won't have to answer."
To make one wig, it takes the hair of 10 to 12 donors, depending on the hair length.
Pagens is growing her hair again for the cause. "They will accept gray hair (for wigs)," she said, "so for my 60th birthday my plan is to do this again. That's my goal."
For more details about Wigs for Kids B.C. and the Hennessey Hair "Do" event next month, visit www.wigsforkidsbc.com. The organization is also online at www.facebook.com/wigsforkidsbc.