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Princeton Sailors Donate Hair to Cancer Patients in Sri Lanka

By Lt. j.g. Michelle Tucker, Carrier Strike Group 11 Public Affairs | | Nov. 1, 2017

Four sailors assigned to Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and a U.S. Embassy representative gave a unique piece of themselves, their locks of hair, while on a port visit in Colombo, Oct. 29.

The volunteers all donated at least eight inches of hair to be used to make wigs for cancer patients.

“While we are out here on deployment serving our country, we got this special chance to build camaraderie and help others at the same time, said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Vanessa Mendez, a native of San Antonio. “There were so many people there. It was great. I haven’t had my hair this short in four years, and this is a good cause. I feel like a new person.”

The Sailors’ hair donation is part of the Strands of Hope campaign and sponsored by the Cancer Care Association, an organization founded in 2003 and designed to help cancer patients and their families. In addition to using hair donations to create wigs, the organization provides cancer screenings, awareness seminars, nutrition counseling, and hospice care.

According to founder Dr. Samadhi W. Rajapaksa, each cancer patient is screened carefully for just the right texture and type of hair. The locks of hair are then made into a wig. Rajapaksa emphasized how critically important it is that people who have more than eight inches of hair consider making a donation so more wigs are available.

“We collect all the information about the patients including photographs of when they had their hair, as it’s important for the wigs to resemble as closely as possible their natural hair,” said Rajapaksa. “These are custom made wigs -- long hair, curly hair, everything.”

After harvesting the donation hair, stylists from Ramani Fernando Salons shampooed, conditioned, and cut the Sailors’ hair. They then professionally styled their new looks. Once complete, the Sailors gave each stylist their ship ball cap as a token of appreciation.

The U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap also paid a visit to the salon to watch the Sailors’ donation and to thank them for their contribution. He shared the reason the cause is so significant to him and emphasized the critical importance of the port visit.

“This is a cause that is especially personal to me as my wife’s mother died of cancer when my wife was just 14 years old,” said Keshap. “These Sailors and Marines are here today, not only working for our country, but working for peace and security worldwide. The fact that they are here helping an organization dedicated to serving those battling cancer is very meaningful.”

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.