Turlock elementary students give locks for love

TURLOCK — Gabrielle Sotomayor looks a little young to be an activist.

But because of an idea the 8-year-old had last year, 14 Walnut Elementary students stood up in front of the school Wednesday morning and had their hair cut for the Locks of Love program.

Cheers erupted, nervous laughter flowed and some tears fell as volunteer stylists clipped one ponytail after another.

"It just feels ... different," said Gabrielle, holding a bag with her braids in one hand and feeling her newly short hairstyle with the other.

Gabrielle wanted to do something to honor her nana, who died of cancer when she was 4½. She heard about Locks of Love, which makes wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair, through her hairstylist. Gabrielle took the idea to her teacher, Patty Christiansen. That was in December.

"We told the girls about it so they would know not to get their hair cut," Christiansen said.

Gabrielle said it wasn't hard to find volunteers.

"I went to each class with sign-up sheets," Gabrielle said. She got 16 girls; two had their hair cut before Wednesday.

Christiansen said she wasn't surprised at the idea.

"That's just Gabrielle," she said. "She organizes everything."

The girls who took the stage Wednesday were nervous, but certain.

"I knew it was a good thing to do for cancer people," said 9-year-old third-grader Samantha Camacho.

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Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or 578-2343.