Twinsburg -- Thanks to years of dedication on the part of one city employee, Lakewood-based charity Wigs For Kids can make the lives of childhood cancer victims just a little better.
Twinsburg Government Center maintenance professional Frank Vernotzy, of Oakland Avenue in Akron, grew his hair out for more than three years to donate it to Wigs For Kids, an organization that collects hair donations and distributes wigs to young victims of cancer who have lost their hair from chemotherapy. Vernotzy said he was motivated to help when a young family friend was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010.
"He went through chemo and lost his hair," Vernotzy said. "Thankfully, it's many years later now and he is in full remission. I wanted to do something symbolic. I saw everything he had gone through and his family had gone through, the self-esteem issues. It's something that I thought I could do."
As Wigs For Kids requires a minimum of 12 inches of hair for a donation, Vernotzy knew he was in for years of cultivation.
"It took me three years and four months to grow my hair out," Vernotzy said. "I figured it would take two years, but it took a lot longer. I'm 57 years old and my hair doesn't grow as fast as it used to, apparently. It takes a lot of hair to make one wig."
Though he kept his reasons for growing his hair mostly private, Vernotzy said his undertaking was met with mostly positive reactions from peers and coworkers.
"I kind of didn't let anybody know," Vernotzy said. "My wife knew and we just kind of kept it to ourselves. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to go through with it. It was interesting, the people's reactions to long hair. My bosses and the administration here at City Hall were wonderful. I did my job and they left me alone and there was not one [negative] word."
Vernotzy's donation was collected at Hudson-based salon Hair Professionals by Nora. The salon cut Vernotzy's hair for free and forwarded the donated hair to Wigs For Kids. Nora Ott, owner of the salon, said she has worked with the charity since her business opened in 2005.
"The pervious owner had done it and we thought it was a good thing," Ott said.
Though he is glad for the experience, Vernotzy said he doesn't plan to grow his hair out again in the immediate future.
"It's always a possibility," Vernotzy said. "I think right now I'm going to leave it short for a little while. It was a long haul. I ride a motorcycle and it was kind of difficult keeping it untangled.
"It was a wonderful experience," Vernotzy added. "I enjoyed doing it. I hope that a child benefits positively from my donation."
Facebook: Conner Howard, Record Publishing Reporter