‘Haircuts for Jillian’: Sorority event supports cancer survivor

(Photo courtesy of Emily Straub)

The Alpha Xi Delta chapter rallied around its sisters as girls cut and donated their hair to chemotherapy patients in support of a former sorority member.

In 2017, alumni member Jillian Blackhall discovered she had cancer and began chemotherapy treatment. Since then, her sorority has hosted the yearly event, “Haircuts for Jillian.”

“Girls will sign up from the chapter to donate their hair just to show our support for her,” Emily Straub, junior in electrical engineering and event organizer, said. “[Jillian] did go into remission about a year later in 2018, so she’s recovered now, but we still continue to do this event every year to show our support for her.”

As girls sat outside the front of the house this fall, professional hairstylists came to cut their hair in aid of the donation process.

“A local hair salon, Gaia Salons, they’re super great; they come for free to cut whoever wants to donate their hair,” Straub said.

Emma Bundy, senior in communication science disorders and member of Alpha Xi Delta, donated hair to the cause this year. She found it meaningful to sit alongside sisters that made the same decision.

“It was really sweet to look around and see all my sisters cheering us on and helped my nerves to see them rally around us,” Bundy said. “The overall event is one of my favorites. It’s always so exciting to see the transformation in each girl after they cut their hair. It was cool to sit there and realize that we are helping a cause that is bigger than ourselves.”

Alpha Xi Delta donated their hair to the Children with Hair Loss organization, based out of Michigan.

“The reason I chose them was just because I looked through their website and they seem like a trustworthy place to send our hair,” Straub said. “Since it’s nonprofit, I felt like we truly would be doing the best with the hair if we sent it there. It also supports children with hair loss, and that’s something Jillian is passionate about.”

Blackhall went into remission in 2018 but continues to support the yearly event. Straub said Blackhall couldn’t attend the event this fall but has in the past, and continually appreciates the sentiment.

“… She messaged us and was super happy we are still continuing the event and still show her support, and is really grateful for it all,” Straub said. “She wants everyone to know how much it still means to her that we’re still doing it every year and that every donation will impact someone going through the toughest time of their life, and it makes a huge difference during a challenging time to have the confidence of having hair, even though it’s not your own.”

Another member of Alpha Xi Delta, Chloee Andrewson, sophomore in human ecology, also donated her hair after learning of the event and being encouraged by her friends.

“I decided since [my hair] was pretty long, I would just go with it, and knew it was for a good cause,” Andrewson said. “The day of the event, five of us sat in chairs up on the deck in front of the rest of the sorority while the hairdressers all cut our hair at the same time. The encouragement and cheers we got the whole time they cut our hair made it all worth it.”