PROVO (AP) — It's hard to feel like a princess when you have no hair.
Students at the Lumen Scholar Institute in Orem want little girls struggling with cancer to feel like princesses. After two months of preparation, they gathered in late November at the school to assemble 91 unique yarn wigs to send to the Magic Yarn Project.
The Magic Yarn Project is a nonprofit based in Alaska, with a local Utah chapter. The group crochets, assembles and delivers Disney-themed yarn wigs to pediatric cancer patients throughout the nation. The students at Lumen connected with the organization through a school board member who is a cancer survivor. Allison Richardson, Lumen director of concurrent enrollment, organized the project.
"We wanted a big service project __ a big thing that would be hard for them and get the kids really involved. Teenagers can do hard things, they want to be challenged," Richardson said Nov. 17. "People told us we couldn't do this many wigs in one night. But we're done."
Students with the school started working on the project during the summer. Some measured yarn, while others crocheted. The project caught on, and Richardson often saw students crocheting at lunch, or teaching other students in the halls. They also recruited their grandmothers and other family members in the community to help.
"One lady in the community made 30 beanies just by herself. She has a burn on her finger from it, from the tension," Richardson said.
Contrary to common thought, the final gathering session was actually run by boys from the school. They went to a Magic Yarn training session to learn how to assemble the four main wigs for the night: Moana, Elsa, Anna and Rapunzel.
"The boys didn't think they'd be good at it, but they went away from the training very thrilled that they learned how to train others on putting the wig kits together," Richardson said.
Andrew Parker, a Lumen sophomore strung hair for a Moana wig, weaving the long black and white strands through the crocheted beanie cap that is the base for the wigs.
"It's pretty easy," he said.
Rahel Hiatt, a junior, braided long yellow soft strands into a Rapunzel wig in another room. She enjoyed being involved in the project.
"I thought it was a great idea," she said.
One young 3-year-old, Ember, got to try on a new wig. She is the daughter of Emily Burton, a math teacher at Lumen. Ember finished chemotherapy for a cancerous tumor in her kidney in September. She was delighted by her Rapunzel wig, because it will match her Rapunzel dress.
Joseph Richardson is a senior at Lumen, and he organized major parts of the school's wig project as part of his Boy Scout Eagle project.Comment on this story
"People put tons of work into this, probably like 1,000 hours. Everyone's gotten so involved. They thought it wasn't very fun, but they came and said it was fun. And it was," he said.
Lumen Scholar Institute is a charter school where students participate in early college and online classes. Students attend school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have traveling tutors that meet them in their own areas. Richardson said many students earn their associate's degree concurrently with high school graduation.