• Last modified 543 days ago (Oct. 26, 2017)


Family honors father and grandfather with gift of hair

Staff writer

The family of a Florence man who died from cancer a year ago recently honored his memory by donating their hair to make wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy.

Lifelong Florence resident Richard Riggs was Merissa Bowman’s father. The 1977 Marion High School graduate died of lung cancer in September 2016.

Merissa, her husband, Greg, and daughter Hazel, 6, chose Wigs for Kids in Westlake, Ohio to receive their locks.

“We chose Wigs for Kids because they provide free wigs for their people,” Merissa said.

Some organizations that make wigs for cancer patients charge for them.

After Riggs was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in late July 2014, he kept shoulder-length hair for a while, knowing he would lose it when he underwent chemotherapy.

Merissa’s hair was already long, but Greg grew his hair out in preparation for the donation.

“His hair was not quite long enough when my dad died in September 2016, so we waited for it,” Merissa said.

The right time came Sept. 23, when Merissa’s sister, Erika Smalley, was visiting from Topeka. Smalley is a licensed cosmetologist, and cut their hair at the family home.

Greg donated 12 to 13 inches. Merissa donated 23 to 24 inches. Hazel donated nine inches.

Although 12 inches or longer is the preferred length, Hazel joined in the effort in her grandfather’s memory anyway.

Merissa had donated hair to a different group in 2009.

“My hair was long and I was ready to chop it off,” she said.

The family has another daughter, Sybil, 8, who chose to keep her curly hair as it was.

Besides cancer patients, Wigs for Kids provides wigs for children who have lost their hair because of alopecia, trichotillomania, burns, and other health problems.

Wigs for Kids recommends ponytails and braids be cut by licensed professionals. When hair is cut, it should be dry and clean. Hair that has been highlighted, permed or colored cannot be used.

Wigs for Kids accepts hair by mail, and also accepts donations to defray the $1,800 cost of making wigs.

Last modified Oct. 26, 2017