5-year-old makes it short and sweet, cuts hair for charity

Though she hadn’t quite achieved Rapunzel-length tresses, Zoey Wasserman had an impressive head of hair. Even more impressive, she chose to cut 12 inches of her goldilocks and donate them to charity.

Zoey is 5 years old.

The great shearing took place June 5 at Diablo Salon in Concord, not far from Zoey’s Walnut Creek home, where she lives with her parents, Dan and Courtney Wasserman. The family belongs to Temple Isaiah in Lafayette.

Zoey Wasserman with her long hair

Zoey just graduated from the temple’s Gal Ilan preschool. That’s where she learned the meaning of mitzvahs, says her mother.

“She had Jewish studies at school, Shabbat at school and Shabbat at home,” her mom says. “It’s a big thing for her. They taught her about sharing and doing nice things for other people.”

“It’s called a mitzvah when you share stuff,” Zoey says.

Zoey’s inspiration came from her friend Hannah Levine, a student at the Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City. Two years ago, Hannah, then 8, donated her ponytail to a charity that makes wigs for children suffering from hair loss (often due to chemotherapy).

Just 3 at the time, Zoey wanted to do a good deed like her friend. “She looks up to Hannah,” Wasserman says. “She’s like a big sister. [Zoey] said, ‘I want to do what Hannah did.’ We did have to wait a couple of years” for her hair to grow long enough.

Those years involved an intense regimen to make sure the hair was well maintained. “I needed to wash for 20 hours,” Zoey says earnestly.

After washing and conditioning, she routinely sat for a lengthy brushing session before having her hair pulled back into a ponytail.

Zoey on the big haircut day

Zoey showed patience, but not always the patience of a saint. “It was kind of too hard when it was long,” she recalls.

One morning her mother recalls running short on time to finish the brushing ritual and sending Zoey to school with a brush and a sticky note that read: “Will someone please do my hair?”

Wasserman explained to Zoey the significance of donating her hair in terms a 5-year-old could understand. “There are children with no hair, and this is going to help them,” she told her daughter. “People would comment and say her hair is so pretty. I taught her to tell people why she has such long hair.”

Finally Zoey’s big day arrived. Wasserman says the salon staff and other clients “made her feel really special. People said what she was doing was so neat. I can tell she’s really happy we did this.”

Zoey’s foot-long ponytail was donated to Wigs for Kids, an Ohio-based charity recommended by the American Cancer Society. It takes 40 donations like Zoey’s to create just one wig, so Zoey will never know the child who benefited.

Zoey and holding the locks afterward

For now, she loves the new ’do.

“I like it shorter,” she says. “It’s cool when you shake your head.”

Her mother loves that Zoey has already learned an important lesson.

“I was so proud of her,” Wasserman says. “There was not a moment of hesitation. She kept smiling through the whole thing, and I’m proud she understood the importance.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.