Locks of Love hair drive to honor 3-year-old battling cancer

DANNEMORA A Locks of Love Hair Drive will be taking place on Saturday, May 12 at Tina's Sheer Magic Salon in Dannemora from 8 to 4 p.m. The drive is to honor and encourage 3-year-old Gabby Cunningham and her family during this trying time in their lives. Hair cuts are free for all donors and walk ins are welcome. Locks of Love is a not-for-profit organization that custom makes vacuum-fitted hair pieces for children with medical hair loss. These beautiful hair pieces ease social discomfort and restore normalcy to the everyday lives of their recipients. The story behind this drive is a story of love, compassion and true friendship. It is about the friendship between Jill Cunningham and Bonnie Pelerin. The two first met at the Family Connections Play Group in Plattsburgh shortly after their families had both relocated to this area in the fall of 2004. Jill and Bonnie's four year old sons bonded in friendship right alongside their mothers. Besides her 4-year old-son, Carson, Jill and her husband Tom had two older sons, Mitchel and Cody and two baby identical twin daughters, Gabby and Elly. Bonnie was immediately impressed with Jill's mothering skills. Several months into their friendship Bonnie was put on bed rest due to a difficult pregnancy. With a lively 4-year-old and her husband only home on weekends due to the relocation process, Jill showed what a true friend she was. Many weekdays she would get her two oldest sons onto the Peru bus, pack a lunch to share, and head off to Bonnie's home in Dannemora with her three little ones. Jill was a source of strength and encouragement to Bonnie during a difficult time. Now it is Bonnie's turn to be a source of strength and encouragement to Jill. Shortly before Thanksgiving Jill discovered a lump on Gabby's thigh. The day after Thanksgiving she and Tom were given the devastating news that Gabby had Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of childhood cancer. Gabby's aggressive treatment began with chemotherapy on December 11th. She will need a total of 43 weeks of chemotherapy. She recently finished 7 weeks of proton beam radiation, with radiation under anesthesia administered 5 days a week. This took place at Mass General Hospital for Children in Boston, the only place in eastern US where it is available. The treatments have caused Gabby to loose weight, color in her cheeks, and about two-thirds of her hair. Thankfully, she has not lost her cheerful disposition or her zest for life. During their Boston stay, Bonnie cleaned Jill's house. She and friends from St. Augustine's Church provided meals for Jill's parents and Mitchel, Cody, and Carson who had to remain in Peru most of the time because of school. Bonnie wanted to do more. She asked Jill and Tom if she could do a benefit for Gabby, but they declined. Then Bonnie came up with the idea of a Locks for Love Hair Drive in Gabby's honor. The idea earned a thumbs up from Jill and Tom. Bonnie approached Dannemora hairdresser,Tina Hartson. Would Tina be willing to set aside a day for Locks of Love haircuts? Not only did Tina agree to setting aside a day, she asked another hairdresser, Kristen Parker, to help out. Both women decided to donate their time and will not be charging for the haircuts. Bonnie will be on location snapping before and after pictures of those who cared enough to donate their hair. She plans on creating a memory album for Gabby and her family. In the future, when they look at the album, they will not only remember this as a time of trials and sickness, but as a time of love, compassion and true friendship. What can you do to help? If you have long hair and are willing to donate 10 inches of it, head over to the Hair Drive on the 12th. You can also spread the word to all of your long haired family and friends. If you want to donate your hair but can't make it on the 12th, please call Bonnie Pelerin at 492-7087. The Cunningham's feel fortunate that the recovery rate for Gabby's type of cancer is about 80 percent. You can keep up to date on Gabby's progress by visiting her website at Caringbridge.org. The Cunningham's also feel fortunate for the help and encouragement they have received from family, friends, and community organizations. Because of the Plattsburgh and Potsdam UPS they were able to have a Christmas. Christopher's Haven provided them with affordable housing for the 7 weeks in Boston. The National Children's Cancer Society and Compassion Net were also a source of help. What else can you do to help? All of this help leaves Jill with a deep desire to give back and help others too. She is collecting aluminum tabs (like those on soda and soup cans) to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in Burlington. The House redeems the tabs and uses the money to cover the $10.00 a night lodging costs for parents who can not afford it. If you would like to help by collecting tabs too, give Jill (643-2721 ) or Bonnie ( 492-7087 ) a call.

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