Youth Venture project collecting hair for a cause

PEPPERELL — “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, donate your hair. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, show that you care.”

When her mom started to lose her hair over the winter because of a medical condition, a middle-school student was beside herself.

“I said, ‘It’s par for the course,'” Deb Durno said. “I just have to deal with it.”

Myalia Durno, a seventh-grader at the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, kept the problem in the back of her mind.

When tasked by her school with developing a project for Youth Venture, Myalia said, “You know what, Mom? I really want to do some community service.”

Her wish was to help children in particular. After researching online, she came up with the idea of helping children with hair loss.

Rapunzel was born. Unlike the fairy tale character, this Rapunzel intends to use her long locks to help others, not to save herself.

Myalia decided to donate hair and money to Children with Hair Loss.

“Myalia has set some pretty high goals,” Durno said. “She has been working her brains out on this project.”

The first step was getting some help. She enlisted the aid of two friends from Nissitissit Middle School, Maddie Sampson and Emily Rotella. The three girls worked together to set goals, plan and advertise the event and get the help they need to succeed.

The girls decided where to post the fliers. The parents have helped with driving and with guidance, but the project is the responsibility of the girls, Durno said.

The trio is looking for 50 people, children and adults, to donate their hair, Durno said. They aim to collect $250 in cash donations.

One of the big challenges was competing for a grant.

“They’ve had to present their work in front of a panel of teachers and the United Way lady,” Durno said. Youth Venture grants are awarded based on the amount of work, the effort and the presentation, she said.

They asked for $350. The grant is intended “to empower youth through support for innovative, community-outreach proposals,” according to

Not only did each panel member promise to attend the event, they gave the maximum amount, $500, for the fundraiser, Durno said. The money is to be used for costs. Myalia hopes to return some of the money, Durno said.

To keep costs down, they approached parents about getting the fliers printed, she said. The Pepperell Community Center is not charging to use the building.

Donated hair must be at least eight inches in length and can be any color, Durno said.

Myalia and Maddie will donate their locks on June 14. Emily’s hair is not long enough, Durno said.

Durno is a licensed hairdresser and will be cutting hair for the fundraiser. She hopes to enlist more help so that donors can leave with a good-looking cut.

“I don’t want the parents to have to pay to have their hair styled,” she said.

Most of the money raised, 90 percent, will go to a nonprofit group, Children with Hair Loss, as will all the donated hair.

United Way Youth Ventures will receive the remaining 10 percent of the money raised.

The fundraiser will be held at the Pepperell Recreation Center, 4 Hollis St., Pepperell, on June 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There will be raffles and mystery gift bags.