When Amy Gorbett lost her brother to throat cancer April 12, 2012, she was devastated.

The two not only were siblings but close friends, and Gorbett had helped take care of him during his final six months.

Rick McCormick would have been 53 this past Saturday and had been the oldest of Gorbett’s siblings. In memory of him and to help others battling cancer, Gorbett, 49, recently donated her hair to Locks of Love.

“Shortly after he passed away, I started thinking about it,” she said.

Story continues below gallery

The national nonprofit organization accepts donations of human hair, which it uses to make wigs for children who have lost their own hair while undergoing cancer treatment or for other medical reasons.

Gorbett, 49, let her hair grow for 2½ years and on Jan. 2 made a visit to her longtime beautician, Chris Kriete, at NStylz Hair Salon on East Second Street in Seymour.

She wasn’t worried or nervous about chopping off her long, dark brown tresses because it was for a good cause, Gorbett said.

“And if I don’t like it, it will grow back,” she added.

Although McCormick never lost his hair, Gorbett said she knew firsthand what it felt like. In 1994, she had to have brain surgery, and her head was partly shaved for the procedure, she said. She had a second brain surgery several years later and now suffers from epilepsy.

“It was awful,” she said of having her head shaved. “I remember a little boy staring at me and saying, ‘Mom, look at that freak.’”

So for a long time after that, Gorbett kept her hair short so it wasn’t as noticeable. The scar tissue where her stitches were prevents some hair from growing back, she said.

When she thinks of young children having to go through that, it breaks her heart, and she knew donating her hair would be something her brother would have supported.

“It doesn’t cost me anything to let my hair grow,” she said. “But it’s worth a lot to know that it will be used to make a child happy.”

Gorbett also is inspiring others to donate their hair.

The oldest of her five grandchildren is 8 and recently asked Gorbett if she could let her hair grow so she could get it cut off when Gorbett donates hers again.

“I wish more people here would want to do it,” Gorbett said. “I hope this makes more people aware of it.”

Gorbett had heard of Locks of Love before her brother died but didn’t know any details about the organization or how to donate.

Kriete, who has cut hair for more than 11 years, told Gorbett she’d be happy to send off the donation for her. The salon gets several requests from clients to make donations, and Kriete participated at her previous salon. She said being able to donate hair is a great way to help cancer patients in need of a wig.

“I’ve done quite a few,” she said. “You’d be surprised how many people do this.”

The main requirement is that the client needs to have at least 10 inches of hair to donate, Kriete said.

She quickly braided Gorbett’s hair into two pigtails and snipped them off.

Although the organization prefers hair that is not chemically treated, it will accept permed or colored hair, Kriete said. Bleached or highlighted hair, however, is not usable, according to the organization’s guidelines.

The individual making the donation can send the hair in or participating salons can do it.

“We usually keep them until we get several,” Kriete said. “That way we can send them in all at once.”

Kriete said the most she’s ever cut off from one person was 20 inches from tip to tip.

“We had a guy recently donate 18 inches of hair,” she said.

With her hair still at her shoulders, Gorbett is well on her way to making her next donation.

“I definitely plan on doing it again,” she said.

But for now, she’s enjoying her new cut.

“It feels a lot lighter,” she said. “Like I lost 10 pounds.”

At a glance

To make a hair donation, it must be clean, dry and in a ponytail or braid.

Hair must be at least 10 inches long from tip to tip.

Place hair in a plastic bag and then inside a padded envelope.

Donations should be mailed to Locks of Love, 234 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405-2701.

For more information, visit locksoflove.org.

January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.