Not all Christmas gifts come wrapped in paper and bundled in bows. Ten-year-old Burnaby girl Katarina Lewis is giving a different kind of present his holiday season - several inches of her long blonde locks for a sick child.
"My hair was starting to grow really long, and it was falling in my face, but I thought maybe I should donate so it will be easier to handle, and it's also for a good cause," said the Grade 5 student at Stride Avenue Community School.
It was a story from Katarina's former teacher that inspired her to donate her hair to Wigs for Kids B.C. The teacher spoke of a girl who had alopecia, a disease that caused her long, black hair to fall out, and Katarina thought that couldn't be good.
"I thought maybe all the other people who are suffering from hair loss should have a wig or something to help," she said. Katarina also remembered a boy at her school who lost his hair and was ostracized because of it. Other kids wouldn't be friends with the boy, they were mean, and no one would talk to him.
"I was a bit disappointed that people wouldn't be friendly with him just because he was different," Katarina said.
Besides the hair donation, Katarina is also raising money from friends and family to support Wigs for Kids B.C. She's collecting donations until Dec. 15, the day her hair will be cut. Hair donations must be braided or tightly bound in a pony tail, so Katarina's hair will be chopped close to chin length.
"I am a little bit nervous, but I'm also kind of happy because it's for a good cause, and I'm also kind of happy because I've had long hair for as long as I can remember, and it's a new look," she said.
Wigs for Kids B.C. was started in 2006 by a group of female friends, raising money to buy a wig for a young girl with no hair. The group has since grown and now raises thousands every year - in 2012 alone they raised $120,000. The organization is affiliated with B.C.
Children's Hospital, which manages the money the group raises.
It takes 10 to 12 donated ponytails to make a wig of human hair, which can cost between $1,000 and $3,000. The donated hair goes to a professional wig maker, and the hospital refers children and teens for fittings. The wigs stay on well, even when children hang upside down on the monkey bars, according Deborah Alden, a Burnaby resident and spokesperson with Wigs for Kids B.C.
The wigs aren't just for cancer patients - they can go to any child or teen in the province that has lost hair for whatever reason.
Having hair again can help a child who's worried about being picked on for being different.
"Little girls will say, 'I am afraid to go back to school because I might be bullied. I'll be made fun of,'" Alden said. "That is the nature of bullying. Kids are targeted for being different. They won't even leave the house. This makes them feel a little more normal."
Alden was moved by Katarina's gesture to cut her hair for another, less fortunate child.
"Personally, I'm in awe of children who are so kind and generous at such a young age who are willing to step forward and help others," she said. "We are so grateful for anyone at any age considering donating their hair."
To donate to Katarina's campaign, go to www.wigs forkidsbc.com and click on Donate Now at the top of the page. She's hoping to raise at least $100, and she's more than halfway. Wigs for Kids B.C. is also holding another fundraiser in January in Richmond Centre, where people can donate their hair. For more information on that, visit the website.