Berkley business owner donates hair, raises money for Wigs 4 Kids

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published December 23, 2015

 BHS senior Jessi McAlpine cuts through 11 inches of Barrett Henson’s hair in November as part of a fundraiser to donate hair and raise money for Wigs 4 Kids.

BHS senior Jessi McAlpine cuts through 11 inches of Barrett Henson’s hair in November as part of a fundraiser to donate hair and raise money for Wigs 4 Kids.

Photo provided by Barrett Henson

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BERKLEY — Barrett Henson knew when he started growing his hair nearly three years ago that he wouldn’t fit back into his professional corporate world.

Henson, who did construction consulting, decided a few years ago that he needed to take a sabbatical from his career, a move that took him to Central America to study the Spanish language. It was there that Henson took the opportunity to start growing out his hair.

“I was fortunate where I did have hair people liked when it was a little longer, like it was wavy and not too crazy, and people said I should donate it,” Henson said. “At the same time, when it was longer, it was not acceptable in the line of business I was in while dealing with customers, so I had a clean-cut style. Not that I couldn’t do it, but it was something I shouldn’t do if I was worried about my career.”

Luckily, Henson found another passion that allowed him to wear his hair like he wanted when he opened Berkley Fit Body Boot Camp on Coolidge Highway this year. It was at this time that Henson found a use for his long hair in the form of a donation.

Specifically, a donation to St. Clair Shores-based Wigs 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 that provides wigs and support services for children ages 3-18 who are coping with hair loss for a number of reasons.

Henson knew he wanted to donate his hair eventually, and after taking time to visit the Wigs 4 Kids facility, he made up his mind.

“I was talking with one of my clients who had heard of Wigs 4 Kids, and it hit home and it sold me on the organization,” he said. “I met the people at the organization and chatted with (Wigs 4 Kids founder and CEO) Maggie Varney and her staff about what I could do to help them. So we came up with the idea of a donation at my business to get hair and raise money.”

Throughout November, Henson had information on Wigs 4 Kids at the front desk of his gym, where clients could donate any amount of money and be entered into a drawing for a free six-month membership. He also asked around for anyone else who would want to donate hair.

In total, the fundraiser raised $1,000 for Wigs 4 Kids and, along with Henson, two of his clients’ daughters also donated their hair.

“There was an overwhelming amount of support here for this fundraiser, and it was capped off by cutting my hair during a workout,” Henson said. “Looking back at it, it is pretty inspiring to see a group of people come to do some good. When you are able to see what you do helps someone, it is something really special. I even had people donate money who wanted to do so without being entered into the raffle.”

Jessi McAlpine, a Berkley High School senior, is one of Henson’s clients at his gym and helped Henson look into Wigs 4 Kids. Henson said learning about Wigs 4 Kids and what they do for children was inspiring.

McAlpine cut off Henson’s hair during a workout.

“(Wigs 4 Kids) is such a great organization, and when you are in school and trying to be like everyone else but you aren’t, it is great to see a community and people gather around this organization,” she said. “It was a very great thing to be part of, and to know somebody is going to have the opportunity to have hair again, it is great.”

Wigs 4 Kids helps children who suffer from a variety of conditions, ranging from alopecia and genetic disorders to burn victims and those suffering from cancer. Using about 10-12 ponytails to make a wig, Wigs 4 Kids has helped about 2,500 local children.

Varney said the donation and fundraiser done by Henson goes beyond just the hair and money.

“Not only did Barrett donate hair and raise funds for Wigs 4 Kids, he also raised awareness by helping us reach out in the community to more families in need of our services,” she said. “He did this as he has the heart for our program. He utilized his business and encouraged his clientele to support Wigs 4 Kids.”

Henson ended up cutting off 11 inches of his hair for the donation, and he later received a “more stylish” haircut courtesy of another one of his clients. He said it took him just shy of two and a half years to grow his hair to the length it was at the time of his donation.

For McAlpine, having the chance to cut off Henson’s hair was a thrill.

“It was kind of weird, as his hair was in a really thick ponytail and I tried to do it as fast as I could because we were in the middle of class,” she said. “But it also felt really cool to cut off someone’s hair.”

Henson won’t be able to throw his hair into a man bun like he normally did for work, but he is getting used to the short hair.

“It is different, as the first time I went to wash my hair, I was a little aggressive on the amount of shampoo I needed,” he said. “I have kind of not needed to style my hair for quite some time, but it is different in a good way.”

For more information on Wigs 4 Kids, visit www.wigs4kids.org.

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