Kristine Salmeron’s dad cut 13 inches off her dark hair three weeks ago. After growing for nearly five years, it was almost down to her hips. The fourth-grader at Mother of Sorrows School in South Los Angeles loved her long hair, but in late September decided she didn’t need it. Why? Because Kristine knew it was going to a bald child she’d seen on TV — a girl, maybe only 11 just like herself, who had lost it in her battle with cancer or some other devastating health problem. “I thought it was a good opportunity to donate my hair for someone in need,” she told a school-yard visitor to the two-story, blue-and-white parochial school on Main Street between 87th place and 88th Street. “It made me feel happy that I was going to do something that I knew was going to make someone else happy,” she carefully explained. “They shouldn’t be ashamed of having cancer. And now that they have hair, they won’t have to feel like they did when they didn’t have hair before.”There were more personal reasons, too, why Kristine chose to shed her long locks.A year or so ago, her own six-year-old cousin lost all his hair after getting treatments for a serious malady. (Luckily, his grew back in a year or so.) Plus Kristine’s mother and little sister, Britney, both cut their hair recently and donated it. When her older sister Adilena, a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, heard about that, she texted her mom, “You’re doing a good thing.” “She just inspired me and my family a lot,” said Kristine. “I’m going to actually grow my hair again, so then I can cut it again. But it’ll probably take me two or three years.” Thousands of wigsThe program that three members of the Salmeron family have given their hair to is aptly named “Locks of Love.” The non-profit charity was started in 2007 by a mother named Madonna Coffman whose daughter had lost all of her hair at age four from alopecia, an autoimmune condition that mistakenly destroys body tissue, including the scalp. The organization, which was featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” has provided thousands of wigs to needy children for free or at reduced cost.Last year and over the summer, a few girls at Mother of Sorrows School had independently cut at least 10 inches of their hair for Locks of Love. So did the school’s new reading specialist, Heidi Witte, a former ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education volunteer formation and teaching program run by the University of Notre Dame) second-grade instructor in New Orleans. Witte mentioned it to Mother of Sorrows’ fifth-grade teacher and religion coordinator, Angela Stryjewski, who was looking for a good hands-on service project to celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul on Sept. 27. Starting in 1999, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul have been involved with the struggling inner-city school, sponsoring it since 2002.“I was actually trying to look for something the whole school could participate in,” said Stryjewski. “And this is just the girls — but I thought it’s a great model, you know, for the whole school. Because it got everyone thinking of what a sacrifice it is, actually to give. “And even if other students kind of shied away from it, I think it did really give them that model that we were looking for. Like, ‘Wow! You cut your hair? You’re giving it away?’ Much more than our can drives and our penny drives. “So I thought it was awesome. It was a great service project.”The principal of Mother of Sorrows couldn’t agree more. Growing up in Boyle Heights, Griselda Villarreal was educated at Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa School, staffed by the Daughters of Charity. And she taught there for 11 years, before coming to Mother of Sorrows, where she served as vice-principal for two years. “So I’m really committed to the Daughters of Charity’s mission,” she said.To date, 15 girls at the school have committed to cut their hair for Locks of Love, with half a dozen already bringing in their shorn hair. In addition, three faculty members have signed up for the challenge, while the reading specialist has promised to do it again. “None of these girls had considered cutting their hair until ‘the challenge’ was brought up,” the principal pointed out. “So it wasn’t just because they had long hair and wanted to change styles or something. They wanted to do it to help other children.” Answering Christ’s callWitte, the reading specialist, knew about Locks of Love before she came to Mother of Sorrows School this year. And she also knew that Supercuts had an annual summer program with the non-profit to cut your hair for free. So that’s what she did. And in less than an hour, she was missing 10 1/2-inches of her brown locks.“It was definitely something I had to consider awhile,” she recalled with a half-grin. “But I was actually very surprised after that it was as long as it was. And it was nice to have the hair go to a good cause instead of in a trash can, you know.”When asked why she did it and is glad other teachers and students at her new school have committed themselves to the project, her expression grew serious. “We’re very dedicated to service here as Vincentians, as Catholics,” she said. “And this is just another way that we can help others.“It’s a pretty basic message, though. Kids who are suffering from hair loss based on factors like cancer or other illnesses need help to restore their self-esteem. And Christ called us to care for the sick and who are in need. So this is just one other way that we can show our dedication to Christ and his mission.“It’s a sacrifice because girls really like their hair,” she noted. “And a lot of our girls have really long beautiful hair. So I think the awareness that it’s promoting is just a good thing. And maybe next year we’ll have more because other girls have asked already, ‘Are we going to do this again?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, why not? There’s no deadline. Your hair’s always growing.’”Sixth-grader Karen Plascencia, 11 — a day after getting her own hair cut, after being inspired by fellow Mother of Sorrows students who took the challenge — was hopeful that’s right. She expected it would take a year or maybe two to grow ten inches to where it was. “I was really nervous ’cause I had always had my hair long, and I’m not used to it being short,” she confided. “So when I got it cut, I just kept looking in the mirror. Now I like it. Most of the kids in my class have come up to me and asked why I got it cut. I told them I’ve seen the TV commercials about kids who don’t have hair, and I feel really bad for them. So I decided to donate my hair.”By her side in the asphalt school yard was first-grader Ariadne Lozano, who was nodding a little. Her mom’s friend had cut off her hair in a beauty salon Sept. 26, so she could bring it in on the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul. The six-year-old, who now had two mini-ponytails, knew well why she got her hair cut: “For little girls who had cancer,” she said, before adding, “It made me feel good.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1026/olalocks/{/gallery}