By Tara Vocino
---- — SALEM — Ella Rhyan Hayward, 7, lost her mother, Shannon, to cancer last year. As a tribute, the Bentley Elementary School first-grader donated 9 inches of hair to Locks of Love at Hair Express on Saturday morning.
Locks of Love is a nonprofit that makes wigs from donated hair for children with medical conditions that cause hair loss.
Ella now lives with her father, Scott, and sister, Madelyn, 3, in the Salem Willows neighborhood.
Kristy Balzarini of Gloucester is co-owner of Hair Express and noted that the Haywards have been loyal customers since the salon opened in 2006.
“Ella is a sweet little girl,” Balzarini said. “She always seems to be in good spirits. She’s been a brave trouper through the whole experience. I think it’s mature of her to do something like this. It shows she has a good heart.”
Grandmother Cynthia O’Connor said the donation was Ella’s idea.
“I want to give my hair to a little girl who needs a wig,” Ella said. “Mommy knows I’m doing this. I first started thinking about it six months ago but started talking about it two weeks ago.”
Friday is the anniversary of her mother’s death from metastatic triple-negative breast cancer after a 19-month battle.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to her,” O’Connor said. “She and other people will realize the heartache her mother went through when she lost her hair.”
Although she was originally reluctant to get a bob, her first short haircut, Ella gave a thumbs-up at the end.
Scott Hayward said he is happy with the outcome.
“It’s going to be easier in the summertime,” he said. “We’re at the beach every day, and we’re going to save money on shampoo. She looks adorable, just like her mother.”
“Shannon had long layers, but also tried daring, fun haircuts, like bobs and a Halle Berry pixie,” Balzarini said. “Their mother loved her daughters a lot. It was hard how cancer came on quickly, but she had a positive attitude right up until the end.”
Besides Locks of Love, the full-service salon has also collaborated with 50 Wigs for 50 Kids.