Abuse over long locks worth it to fight cancer

Sometimes you can’t hear them talk, but other times you can

And it’s the same old cliches, is it woman or a man

– Bob Seger 1972

Jim Spangler knew people were snickering, but he didn’t care.

“Folks thought I was crazy,” he said.

Why?

Because he let his hair grow long.

Folks didn’t know, though, that the long locks that offended them would be of benefit to others.

It started without intention, Spangler explained.

“My hair was getting longer last summer,” he said, when his wife, Susie, asked him when he was getting a haircut.

“I jokingly mentioned I had decided to grow it for Locks of Love,” he said. “Then a friend walked in who had lost all her hair in her chemo treatments. I told her I was growing my hair for her. She laughed and smiled and I knew I had to do it.”

What Spangler didn’t realize was he had to have a full eight-inch braid in order to donated to Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who are suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

“So, for 16 months I listened to snickers, listened to the comments,” Spangler said.

Eventually he needed bobby pins to hold back his hair, and then the snickers started again.

“Finally the hair was long enough to pull back in a pony tail,” Spangler shared, “and the comments picked up and the eyes started rolling.”

Not nearly to the eight-inch braid after 14 months, Spangler appeased his wife and they decided to double the benefit and have his hair cut for Relay for Life.

“A friend suggested we raise money and if we hit $1,000 maybe I would get it cut sooner,” Spangler said.

So a coffee can was set out in the office Spangler has in downtown Warren, and he offered to match the first $500 donated.

“We got to the $1000 pretty quickly,” Spangler said, “but I needed that extra month to get the full eight inches of hair. So it grew until June 12, a week before Relay.”

Spangler can’t single out a person he did this for.

“I began listing the names of all the people … not just that first friend.”

The list started with 14 people he and his family know personally who have or have had cancer.

The list grew to 18 names. Then 20.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how many of our friends are affected by cancer,” he said.

Spangler has learned a lot during his hair-growing experience and reinforced some of what he already knew.

“After a long day of listening to people say ‘why don’t ya get a haircut?!’, a young lady battling bladder cancer asked me why I had long hair. I told her for a cancer fundraiser. She simply replied, ‘Thank-you’.”

But mostly, “after listening to people tell me I looked ridiculous and unprofessional,” Spangler shared, “all I could think of was my dad. As his body was ravaged by cancer and chemo I thought every day how unimportant outside appearance was and how much more beautiful a person was on the inside and how much he meant to me.”

Besides the hair he donated, Spangler’s final donation to Relay for Life was more than $1,300, much of it from the coffee can.

“I really don’t know how many donors there were,” he said.