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7-year-old's donation is really a gift of love

Lauren Ridge, a 7-year-old Sandy Ridge Elementary student, decided recently she wanted to do something special in honor of her friend Katie Deville.

Eight-year-old Katie is a survivor of rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and deadly form of childhood cancer. She was diagnosed at age 4. Her hair started falling out from chemotherapy on her 5th birthday.

“Losing her hair was devastating to her,” says Katie's mother, Brigette Deville. “She would look at herself in the mirror and say, ‘I am so ugly without hair,' and then attach small hair clips to the remaining wisps of hair that she refused to cut off. It was heartbreaking.”

Lauren and Katie have been friends since they were 3, shortly after the Devilles moved to the Weddington Chase neighborhood in western Union County, where the Ridges also live.

Lauren's family, mother Sue, father Larry and big brother Stephen, 9, rallied around the Deville family during Katie's illness. They are proud of Lauren's decision to donate her hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that donates hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children.

“It's amazing for a 7-year-old to want to do something like this,” says Sue Ridge.

So Wednesday, at Planet 21 salon in Waxhaw, stylist Lee Ann Middleton's scissors cut through Lauren's silky blonde ponytail. The two girls' mothers offered encouragement, along with tears, cheers and hugs.

“I heard that Katie was diagnosed, and I heard that people give to Locks of Love,” says Lauren. “I wanted to do that.”

About 12 inches of Lauren's hair will become a part of a wig for someone who has lost hair following cancer treatment or from conditions like alopecia, which causes hair loss.

Happily, Lauren's hair won't go directly to help her friend Katie .

Katie's dark blonde locks have grown past her shoulders in the 21/2 years since her cancer treatment ended successfully. She is now cancer free, but still gets regular scans.

Katie wants to donate to Locks of Love once her hair is long enough.