Giving all she could

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By Stephen Lega

Pamela Langford was doing all right sitting in the barber's chair, waiting to have her hair - all 48 inches of it - removed as part of this year's St. Baldrick's Day event.

"I actually held my strength fine until I saw my daughter and another girl who calls me mom," Langford said.

Then, the tears came.

Langford had her last hair cut seven years ago. Back then, she made a donation to Locks of Love, which uses hair donations to make hair prosthetics for children who have lost their hair due to alopecia areata or cancer.

Saturday, a team of volunteer barbers was needed to prepare Langford's hair to be cut. They removed a pair of 36-inch ponytails from her head before they shaved the remainder of her hair. Both ponytails will be donated to Locks of Love.

Langford's daughter, Serene, did not have cancer, but she has been hospitalized more than once for rheumatic fever.

The Shriners helped them during times Serene had to stay at Kosair Children's Hospital, Langford said, and since then, she has wanted to repay what was done for her and her family.

Langford said the Bible refers to a woman's hair as her glory (1 Corinthians 11:15), but she realized that it also provided her an opportunity.

"My hair means a lot to me," she said, "but any children mean a lot more."

Langford decided in January to participate in St. Baldrick's efforts, although some of her friends and family tried to discourage her from cutting her hair.

"She's pretty brave," Serene said. "I don't think I could have done it."

Donald Cortwright was one of Langford's many supporters Saturday afternoon in the St. Augustine gymnasium. As she was fighting through tears during the hair cut, Cortwright reached out and held her hand. At one point, he even made her laugh.

"It was hard on her, but she believed in the cause, and that's the reason she did it," he said.

Serene admitted that it was hard to watch.

"But I was proud of her for what she was doing for those kids," Serene said.

Langford was equally moved by her daughter.

"To see that compassion, it ripped my heart out, and that's why I began to cry," Langford said.

She also appreciated the support she received after the shaving was complete. In addition to her friends and family, several others at the event, including all the barbers and announcer Jeremy Bowman, reached out to her.

Langford added that St. Baldrick's is a wonderful event, and she hopes that more women will participate in 2009. Hair will grow back, she said.

"We are told to let go of material things," Langford said. "I've found out it's not what you have, it's what you give."

Editor's note: Pamela Langford participated in St. Baldrick's in honor of Kari Catoe, a 14-year-old girl who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Catoe completed her final treatment in February.