WASHINGTON -- It was easy to spot Sherri Sosslau at the wig-making workshop held last Tuesday at Trinity Washington University. "I'll be the one with the purple hair," she told The Huffington Post.
Sosslau is the founder of Hair Flair for Hope, a newly minted D.C. nonprofit that provides free colorful yarn wigs to women and children who have suffered from hair loss. Whether it's to show solidarity with women fighting cancer or to advocate for her nonprofit, Sosslau wears her own purple wig so often that her friends are beginning to forget what her real hair looks like, she said.
These are no ordinary wigs. Little girls who try them on call them "princess wigs," said Sosslau. Another child once put one on and declared, "I'm a mermaid!"
Although Sosslau had originally conceived of the yarn wigs mainly for children, she said that increasingly, women in their 50s and 60s are interested in the wigs, too. The wigs can provide a lighthearted escape for those undergoing chemotherapy.
"We don't expect this to be an everyday item," Sosslau said. "We're not trying to be Locks for Love. Some people may say, 'Wow, this is a frivolity.' It is. We want that for these women: a pure frivolous luxury. ... It's not something you'll wear everyday, but that's OK. One day a month, one day a year, maybe for when they do a walk for the cure, we don't care."
As for the volunteers, making the wigs gives them a tangible way to contribute to an often personal issue. At wig-making workshops like the one hosted last week at Trinity, participants, who don't need to know how to knit, produce "almost-there" wigs. Later, those wigs will be finalized and customized by their new owners.
By a show of hands, most of the volunteers at Trinity had been affected by cancer.
Janelle Hubbard, a freshman at Trinity, was there to show support for her mother, a breast cancer survivor of 12 years.
Karlita Chambers, a professor of exercise science at the university, came for two reasons. "One, because I have a lot of family affected by cancer," she said. "And two, I have a volunteer requirement for my church. I chose something that was important to me."
To support the wig-making, Hair Flair for Hope relies on donations. That's how Linda Vene, a member of the group's five-person board, first became involved. After learning about the project on a community message board, she donated yarn and her expertise.
Vene said she pitched in for a simple reason: "[Sosslau] needed help. She's a neighbor. It's community-based."
Vene now crochets all of the caps that form the base to the wigs. She guessed that she has made close to 400 so far. As Hair Flair for Hope has expanded, production has increased to about 20 caps a month. As a 20-year Peace Corp employee, still employed, Vene said she tries to make about one cap per day. "But I don't always get around to it," she admitted.
Hair Flair for Hope hopes to expand even further. The organization has applied for 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit.
If you're interested in participating or hosting a wig-making workshop, or know a good candidate for a fantasy wig, contact Hair Flair for Hope.