by Moira Cullings
LENEXA — Katy Rempel couldn’t stop smiling during the Let Go For Love event at St. James Academy here on Feb. 16.
It was her fourth time in four years donating her hair through the school’s annual hair-cutting event.
“I thought it was going to be too short,” she said, since donors are required to chop at least eight inches of hair.
But shortly before the big day, she realized it was long enough, and she couldn’t help but participate in one final haircut — a perfect cap to her high school years.
“It makes me super happy,” she said, “just to think about someone [who’s] going to get my hair and be able to wear it.
“I just love that things like this are offered at St. James.”
The hair collected that day was sent to Children With Hair Loss, a Michigan- based nonprofit that makes wigs for children and young adults experiencing medically related hair loss.
Eleven students and three staff members were expected to participate, but nearly double that amount decided at the last minute to join in the fun.
“I’m thrilled with the turnout,” said Julie Curnes, honors precalculus teacher and sponsor of the Thunder Service Club, which organized the event.
“Now, we know to plan for double the number of girls,” she added. “I think they feed off each other’s excitement.”
It was mostly squeals of laughter that filled the school gymnasium as the cutting began, although a few tears were shed as well.
The participants were encouraged by their friends, who cut their hair for them, as well as the classmates who gave up their Thunder Block, the school’s free period, to watch in the stands.
Sophomore Emily Free said she felt nervous but excited for the day. She had donated just once before with her sister when she was in first grade.
“I remember coming home, and my dad had no clue that we had donated it. He was surprised,” she laughed.
This time around, Free’s dad knew she was donating her hair. And the experience was even more special.
“I wanted to do it because I thought it would be a fun way to make a difference,” she said. “It means a lot to me because I really just want to help people.”
Freshman Madison Steinlage had also donated her hair once before, when she was in kindergarten.
When her hair was getting long this past summer, her mom suggested she participate in Let Go For Love.
“I really like that my friends get to be the ones to cut it,” she said. “It means a lot that I’m actually doing it for something, and not just cutting it and it going in the trash when other people can use it.”
Steinlage was moved by the encouragement of her classmates and friends.
“I didn’t know that all of them were going to be able to come,” she said, “so I’m really glad that they’re showing up for me.”
Curnes was overwhelmed by the experience and the selflessness of the donors.
“It’s just awesome,” she said. “We’re grateful for their donations.”
For a full album of photos from Let Go For Love, click here.
KAY program offers leadership, service opportunities
St. James Academy’s Thunder Service Club is part of the Kansas Association for Youth (KAY), a program of the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA).
KAY has provided leadership and service opportunities for students who participate through their high schools for 75 years.
St. James has had its service club since 2008, and honors precalculus teacher Julie Curnes is sponsoring the club for the first time this year.
“The idea is to [help students] understand the value of service and leadership for a lifetime,” she said.
Around 70 St. James students are enrolled in the club, but 30 typically show up to the club’s monthly meetings, which are held before school.
Students are free to participate as their schedules allow.
During meetings, members discuss upcoming events and participate in a quick service opportunity.
“It’s the idea that in 15 minutes, you can make an impact,” said Curnes. “Or, you can take it to the next level and be more involved.”
The club hasn’t run short of ideas for service opportunities.
Before finals, students hung up candy canes and “Good luck” notes on each locker.
During Operation Christmas Child, students collected items for shoe boxes that were delivered to children in need around the world.
At Pumpkin Palooza, the club’s only nighttime meeting, students decorated pumpkins for Sunflower House as part of the Shawnee organization’s annual pumpkin fundraiser.
Curnes said the students involved in the club go above and beyond to help others.
She hopes other schools, including middle schools, will be inspired to start their own KAY club.
“It gives [students] a heart for service for the rest of their lives,” she said.