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Hall Teacher's Cancer Diagnosis Spurs Dozens to Donate Hair

More than 40 students, a teacher, and a parent participated in Friday's Pantene Beautiful Lengths hair drive at Hall High School in West Hartford.

Although just 10 people originally signed up for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths hair drive last Friday in Hall's cafeteria, by the end of the day 45 ponytails, each measuring a minimum of 8 inches long, had been collected in support of the American Cancer Society.

Hall history teacher Maryam Wardak and Hall senior Erin Smyth, who both started the day with very long hair, had talked about donating to Pantene Beautiful lengths for a long time. "Erin and I spoke about it last year, and thought it would be nice to have a hair drive," Wardak said.

Keilani Lai-Hipp, also a long-haired Hall senior, got involved as well. But, when Librarian and Media Specialist Gail Koffi was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late November, the proposed hair drive took on special significance.

Koffi, who is on leave undergoing chemotherapy, participated in the hair donation via FaceTime on an iPhone. "It's just a really wonderful way to express their caring and compassion for another human being," she said, as she watched the hair of students Leilah Rassek and Feddak Zaidi get braided and then cut.

"It was announced, but I didn't know it was going to be this outpouring of love and compassion," said Bruno Koffi, Gail Koffi's husband and a French and Spanish teacher at Hall. "It's not surprising with the type of spirit that we have, trying to help in any we way can."

Bruno Koffi said that the Hall community has been very supportive since his wife's diagnosis, providing meals, driving her to treatments, calling and sending her notes. He is extremely thankful for everything, he said.

Although only 10 originally signed up to donate hair, other students got caught up in the spirit of the event and became willing participants. After the first 45 minutes, Assistant Principal Shelley Solomon said, "There are almost as many calling their parents as have already had it done." Verbal permission of a parent or guardian was required.

Wardak, as well as Smyth and Lai-Hipp, donated their locks. And Lai-Hipp's father, Gary Lai-Hipp, also donated his signature ponytail. "He last cut it at least seven years ago," said Keilani Lai-Hipp. "I don't remember him with short hair," she said.

Stylists from Antonia's Hair Boutique in West Hartford and Milano Salon & Day Spa in Bloomfield volunteered their services cutting and styling the participants' hair.

In addition to hair, financial donations to PanCan, the Pancreatic Cancer Network, were made at the event.

The hair drive was just one part of Hall's second annual "Do Something Week," which also included the successful and well-attended Farm-to-Table dinner on Wednesday night as well as efforts supporting a local food bank, AIDs awareness, veterans groups, and other charitable organizations.

Hall's Global Problem Solving class, which is focusing on the basic need of "food," also played a major role in the activities of Do Something Week.

Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program collects natural locks of hair, and in turn donates them to the American Cancer Society, which provides real-hair wigs free of charge to cancer patients who have lost their hair due to medical treatments.

Florence Rome February 05, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Wow....way to go Hall. What a kind and thoughtful community! Wishing Mrs. Koffi a full recovery. Keilani Li-Hipp, you rock!
Priscilla Hooper February 05, 2013 at 05:55 PM
The culmination of a wonderful week at a wonderful school!

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