Generous hearts on display in park

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2007

Take old-time acoustic song stylings, toss in some sweet tea and southern barbecue, add well over 200 inches in hair – and you have the makings for a rather unique event.

An estimated 200 folks turned out at Confederate Park in Greenville Saturday night with their folding chairs and blankets. They enjoyed a free concert by the talented Alabama Gravy Soppers, a tasty meal and a chance to support the American Cancer Society.

The Greater Greenville Service League sold raffle tickets on $100 and provided concessions, including barbecue baskets and desserts, to raise monies for the annual Butler County Relay For Life.

All their efforts proved a success.

&#8220We raised $1,430 for our Relay Team, the GGSL. And we completely sold out of our barbecue, which is great!” said Jill Stallworth, who helped organize the event with Main

Street's Nancy Idland.

  Throughout the evening, a group of generous-hearted ladies of all ages also donated their ponytails. The swaths of hair will go to create custom-made wigs for cancer patients through the Locks of Love and Pantene Expressions of Love programs.

 Stallworth said she was inspired to organize the hair-cutting event after seeing Ann Curry of the &#8220Today” Show cut her hair last year to donate to Locks of Love.

&#8220I started asking people if they'd be willing to grow and cut their hair and a lot of them said ‘Yes,'” Stallworth said.

 Three hair stylists - Kina Brooks of Bella, Leonora Thrower of L'Esprit in Montgomery and Mona Reeves of Marilyn's - donated their services for the evening.

Colonel Earl Tisdale couldn't stick around for the concert and hair cutting, but he was happy to stop by the park and pick up a few barbecue plates to take home.

&#8220Why cook on a Saturday night when you've got good food right here. And it's all for a good cause,” Tisdale said with a smile.

Others enjoyed dining in the open air and visiting with friends and neighbors on a picture-perfect night

The evening was one that mixed tears with laughter, and cheers with bittersweet memories, as the girls and women shared the reasons behind donating their &#8220crowning glory.”

&#8220I am doing this in memory of my aunt, Rebecca Miller Faircloth, who died from cancer three years ago,” Olivia Idland Autrey told the audience as she prepared to have a foot of her silky blonde hair cut off.

&#8220My aunt had her hair cut off, and she wound it up into sections and put the hair in the trees so the birds could use it for making nests. I'd like to think she would be happy to see my hair going to help another cancer patient.”

Debra Arthur, who had lost two close family members to cancer in the past year, was too emotional to speak on microphone of the reasons behind her donation. She clasped Stallworth's hand and fought back tears as eight inches were snipped from her thick, dark hair.

&#8220I'm glad to be able to do it. It just gets to you, you know,” Arthur said as she tested out her newly bobbed hair.

April Smith waved over her good buddy Madeline Breen, a cancer survivor and one of the people Smith was donating her hair in honor of.

&#8220Here, I need a picture taken with my inspiration,” Smith said with a smile as she hugged Breen.

As for Breen's reaction: &#8220Well, it makes me want to cry and happy at the same time.”

The youngest donor, ten-year-old Shelby Sullivan, was also the one who donated the greatest amount of hair. Shelby's long, long locks allowed her to give two ten-inch ponytails and still have hair beyond shoulder length.

&#8220She has never had her hair cut, just trimmed. We decided when she did cut it, it would be a really big event, and this certainly is that,” Shelby's mom, Louise Sullivan said.

For some, the hair cutting event was truly a family affair.

Lois Smith not only donated eight inches of her own hair, daughters Katie and Samantha also cut their hair for the cause.

&#8220They all decided last year to grow their hair as a family and cut with us,” Stallworth said.

Wanda Graham, who had 18 inches cut from her hair, also brought along ponytails donated by her mother, Wilma June Malzten and daughter, Kristi Graham.

The group got an unexpected donation when Harper Lee Heartsill came forward and had her hair cut, said Stallworth.

&#8220Harper Lee said she was watching and listening, and she got inspired to do the same thing. She hadn't planned to cut her hair at all!”

 A total of 23 ponytails were donated Saturday night, and another seven promised for Relay, Stallworth said.

&#8220Since some people's hair wasn't quite long enough for the minimum eight-inch donation, we will wait and cut it Relay night. That will give us a whopping 30 ponytails.”

And the group hopes for even more.

&#8220We are all issuing a challenge to others to come and donate their hair at Relay. They can come to our tent and see the ‘before' and ‘after pictures' and see how easy it is,” Stallworth said.

&#8220We'll have a hairdresser there at Relay to trim up their locks after donation - free of charge, of course.”

Attendee Rosemary Jordan tapped her feet in time to the music of the Gravy Soppers as the hair cutting event wound down.

&#8220They are a really good group of musicians. And this has been a great event,” Jordan said.

&#8220And people complain there is nothing to do in Greenville? Not true!”

Anyone interested in learning more about hair donation to Locks of Love or Expressions of Love should contact Jill

Stallworth at 382-9597 or 538-9124.

The 2007 Relay For Life is set for 6 p.m. May 11 at the Greenville YMCA.