Mane priority Featured

12:27pm EDT November 28, 2005
Before he founded Wigs for Kids, Jeffrey Paul was a jet-setting stylist to the stars. He owned a successful, lucrative salon in Rocky River and considered himself at the top of his game.

Then his life took a dramatic turn when his niece was diagnosed with leukemia nearly 25 years ago, says Paul. Although treatment saved her life, the then 15-year-old was devastated at the thought of losing her hair.

“So I made a promise,” he says. “And when you make a promise to a kid, you keep it.”

Paul quickly discovered most wigs available at the time were made for adults and lacked a realness of appearance and style. Although he received more than 500 donated wigs when he initiated a wig bank, most were more suited for grandmothers or hadn’t seen the light of day in many years.

“We started to realize how much there was a need (for children’s hairpieces),” he says. “Chemotherapy became the medicine of choice, and that side effect was devastating to kids’ self esteem.”

Paul began doing research and working with doctors and prosthetics specialists to develop a hairpiece that would withstand typical kid activities such as swimming and gymnastics and came up with a wig that adhered to the scalp under the most aggressive conditions.

It was the beginning of Wigs for Kids, an international, nonprofit organization that provides free, custom-made hairpieces to children who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatment, alopecia, burns or any other medical condition. Paul says that since that time, he hasn’t looked back once.

“The reward is beyond my imagination,” he says. “I would do it for anything beyond the call of dollars and cents. It’s all about the kids and the life-changing experience we can give them.”

Paul and his partners also discovered how to process human hair for wigs. Today, each handcrafted wig is made of about 150,000 strands of natural hair. The individual strands are hand-tied onto the foundation of the wig, which is created from a mold of the person’s head for a snug fit.

The organization also works closely with the Locks of Love program. At participating salons, customers can donate 12 inches or more or hair to be made into a wig in exchange for a free cut and style.

HOW TO REACH: www.wigsforkids.org