By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PALMYRA, Mo. -- Ella Goldinger had one of her best friends on her mind as she held eight inches of her own hair in her hand.
Palmyra Elementary School lost third grader JC Breault to cancer in July. Nine of his classmates continued his memory during a hair donation event at the school on Wednesday. Nineteen elementary school students, three high school students and one teacher gifted dozens of small ponytails to either Pantene Beautiful Lengths, Wigs for Kids or Locks of Love. Each girl donated at least 8 inches to the cause.
"I want other kids to have the chance to have hair," Ella said. "I saw him not have hair, and I want people and other kids who are suffering from cancer to have hair."
Abbey Redd's hair hung in several small ponytails as she stood among the other third graders. They cheered for JC and shouted his basketball number, 27, in his memory. The girls had learned true loss in losing a classmate, so giving up a eight inches of hair didn't seem like a loss at all.
"It was really emotional to see our friend that we've had from preschool pass away," Abbey said.
Emma Foreman, a junior at Palmyra High School, organized the event through the district's Character Plus program. Character Plus brings students together with area businesses to help strengthen the community. Eight hairdressers with Palmyra roots donated their time to cut and style the young girls' long hair into short new hairdos. Emma hoped the event would give the elementary students a selfless way to help others.
"It just shows no matter what age you are, or if you're rich or poor, you can help out in some way," Emma said.
Renee Goldinger, the Character Plus chairperson and Ella's mother, said each girl who donated her hair had felt the impact of cancer. They'd seen it cause pain for teachers, friends or family. Goldinger said adults in the community band together each year through Relay for Life, but that event doesn't offer a lot of opportunities for children to give back.
"They give of themselves," she said. "It's not a monetary donation, and kids of all grade levels have given in such a wonderful way. These kids want to be a part of something."