Gilmore's braids

HERE WE GO!! After getting three 10-inch braids ready to cut, Denise Sauls lifts up her scissors and prepares to cut off the first braid of Al Gilmore’s hair. He began growing the long locks in February 2019 with the intent to donate to Locks of Love.

Two years and two months ago Elba teacher/coach Al Gilmore began a journey that ended Monday evening with the cut of a pair of scissors.

In February 2019, Gilmore began growing his hair out with the intent to eventually donate his hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization with the mission “to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children free of charge.”

This would actually be the second time that Gilmore had let his hair grow long with such an intent. The first time, he donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. That donation went to a cancer patient, providing a free real-hair wig for the recipient.

Gilmore’s donation to Pantene was driven by his desire to something in memory of his own mom after she lost her battle with cancer. Then, in 2019, he decided he would do it again, except this time, the receiving organization would be Locks of Love.

“I figured I had one more shot at growing my hair long enough to donate it,” Gilmore said. 

For him, it is a personal honor to be able to grow his hair and make the donation. Throughout the process, Gilmore has been quick to point out that he did not really want any attention, but as the Elba community began to realize the ‘what and why’ of Gilmore’s lengthening locks, the whole process sort of blossomed into a rally of support for Gilmore.

Eventually, the hair grew long enough that Gilmore began wearing it in a bun on the back of his head, and the jokes ensued. Yet, his support system remained strong.

Locks of Love requires the donated hair for its program to be at least 10 inches in length and be bundled in a ponytail or braid.

Two years and two months after Gilmore began his journey, he reached his goal of being able to provide a donation to Locks of Love. 

A popular teacher/coach at Elba High School, the plan was formulated for Gilmore to get his long-awaited haircut at the conclusion of the Elba High varsity boys baseball team’s season finale game Monday evening, April 19, at the baseball field on the Elba High School campus.

Denise Sauls, a longtime cosmetologist and current cosmetology instructor at LBW Community College, got the privilege of braiding Gilmore’s hair into three 10-inch braids and then cutting them off with her scissors. She also is an Elba High alum and parent of current student-athlete Collin Sauls.

The haircut was witnessed and cheered on from the baseball players, parents, friends, colleagues, but most especially, from Gilmore’s wife, Jenny.

Afterwards, Gilmore said he only hopes the interest experience has garnered will lead to more people considering growing their hair and donating it to such worthy causes as Locks of Love. 

“This is something that is personal and means a lot to me,” Gilmore said. “I can only hope it will encourage others.”

 

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