After months of carefully grooming and measuring their hair, 24 girls between the ages of 5 and 15 cut their hair to donate to children with cancer through the charity Zichron Menachem.

As a thank you to the girls for their donation, Zichron Menachem treated them to manicures and makeovers, as well as food, drink and delicious desserts. From 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, over a dozen stylists and assistants volunteered their time for the event.

Before the synchronised cutting, the girls took a group photo, wearing their salon gowns and holding up long plaits on either side of their heads, with rubber bands marking off where the stylists should cut. After the countdown and a quick snip of the scissors, there was a race to the sinks for the girls to have their hair washed before getting it styled into a new bob.

“It was difficult to decide to cut it the first time, but this time it was much easier,” said Chaya Rivka

Noe, 11, who donated her gorgeous curly blonde hair for the second time. “I may do it again.”

By the end of the evening, a large pile of blonde, brown and auburn plaits rested on a shelf, ready to be given to wig makers in Israel and London.

For many girls, donating their hair to Zichron Menachem becomes a family affair.

“My younger sister donated her hair last year and so did three of my friends. I wanted to do it this year,” said Miri Aisenthal, a student at Menorah High School for Girls. “My hair grows really long, and it’s a big mitzvah so I was happy to do it.”

Also, in addition to cutting their hair, the girls often raise sponsorship money. Many girls use this as their bat mitzvah project. It’s a great way to build a connection between teens and Israel, in addition to the fact that it’s a wonderful way to do a mitzvah. Zichron Menachem in the UK gets hundreds of hair donations each year and there are many who cut their hair and can’t make it to the parties. Girls and women from across the Jewish community take part.

Wig maker Devorah Pariente is Zichron Menachem’s partner in the UK. At previous hair cutting parties, she had demonstrated to the girls the many hours of skilled work that go into making one wig.  “I helped Zichron Menachem in Israel when I lived there so it was only natural for me to continue working with them when I moved to the UK three and a half years ago. I feel lucky that I get to help people out when they need it most.”

Simon Barker, director of hair salon HOB, said “It is emotional to speak with the parents and children who come to donate their hair. We see the benefit immediately and get so much out of it ourselves.”

Joella Gothold was a make-up volunteer. “I saw a request asking for people to volunteer to do make-up and nails for the girls cutting their hair, and I thought that I could help. I know how to do make-up; I was excited to volunteer. It’s been so much fun seeing how excited the girls are to cut their hair.”

This summer, parents of children with cancer in Israel will be coming to the UK for a parents retreat. While they are here they have the opportunity to bond with other parents in a similar situation and learn from their shared experiences.