BY BLAKE HEMPSTEAD
Ten Fred Moodry Middle School girls are wearing noticeably different hair styles this week following an act of giving rivaled by none.
Future Copperheads and sixth-grade basketball players showed an act of love and teamwork beyond the court last week when they all cut their hair to donate it for wigs for cancer patients.
The act was spurred by Kora Kelly, who cut her hair early last week in support of her mother, Kristi, a cancer survivor and coach of the girls’ basketball team.
“This is Koras third time doing it,” Kristi said afterwards. “It makes my heart feel so warm to see people donate their hair for cancer patients.”
The first practice after Kora had her hair cut, all of the girls became curious as to why. Once they learned more of what Kora’s motivation was, they all came together as teammates and followed suit.
Kristi spoke with Tonya Kulaski, owner of Stylin’ Tease in Anaconda, and the team went through with their vows Saturday with the common theme being, “Our hair will grow back, so it’s worth it.”
According to Mary Sandoval, nine players and one sister to a team member donated hair. Along with her daughter Sami, Mary says this collection of girls has been playing together since the third grade as evident by this level of support for their teammate and coach.
Team members were Kora, Kesslynn Trent, Madison King, Sydnie Thompson, Sami Johnson, Aylissa Peterson, Bianca Torney, Cara DeMarois and Kendel Derieux. Madison DeMarois, Caras sister, also donated hair.
One by one, some more emotional than others, hopped up into the chair and said farewell to up to eight inches of hair to be donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, an organization that builds wigs for cancer patients. And unlike some other organizations that collect hair for similar programs, Pantene donates all of the wigs for free.
“I have to admit, I was fighting back tears while they were getting their hair cut,” Kristi said. “Cancer makes people feel so horrible on the inside. A simple act of kindness like a hair donation can make someone feel so good on the outside when they are at their lowest.”
Today, Kristi is 14 years cancer free and loving her life. She is a math, reading and social studies teacher at Fred Moodry Middle School and spends her free time as a girls’ basketball coach for the school and also during travel seasons.
“We had Kora two years after I was diagnosed,” Kristi said. “Kora, (my husband) Kevin, my mom, the rest of my family, friends and students have been so supportive over the last 14 years.”
And now Kristi can add a very special basketball team to her list of supporters.
What is most telling about the kids is how they quickly got over the loss of what girls their age usually lose sleep and friends over. Sandoval said most were cracking jokes and all had fun for a great cause with the biggest fear being how they would wear a ponytail during games now.
Here’s just another example how sports can transcend culture and society – how a collection of teammates can come together off the court and be part of something far bigger than they can possibly comprehend.
Future Copperheads you ask? We can only hope.