Threading the Needle: Wigs for Cancer Patients

Jamie Wright is helping cancer patients struggling with hair loss by providing them with free wigs — and is honoring her late mother at the same time.

Ayzia King By Ayzia King

Credit: Andrew Werner.

Credit: Andrew Werner.

Jamie Wright’s wig charity, Lolly’s Locks, is committed to getting wigs to cancer patients and expanding its online presence, so it can reach many more people — both donors and patients.

Lolly’s Locks, Wright’s Bethesda, Md., 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is dedicated to providing quality wigs to cancer patients suffering from hair loss caused by the side-effects of chemotherapy. It works with wig-providers around the country to donate high-quality wigs to patients who cannot afford them. Wright founded Lolly’s Locks in 2012 to honor her mother, Lolly Toll, who lost a 15-month battle with ovarian cancer. Toll endured more than 20 chemotherapy treatments and lost all her hair.

Patients can become inundated with medical bills and other unanticipated expenses due to surgeries and emergencies during their medical care. Investing in a wig can feel unaffordable, but having a wig can help ease the shock many patients feel from losing their hair.

Quality wigs can be very expensive. Most private health insurance policies will cover a percentage or the entire cost of a wig purchase, but only if the patient has a prescription from their oncologist. The prescription is typically written for a “hair prosthesis” or “cranial prosthesis” — the terms insurance companies use for chemo-required wigs.

As such, many patients have to pay for a wig out of their own pocket. If patients know that their insurance company will not help with a wig purchase and cannot afford one on their own, then Lolly’s Locks steps in.

Lolly’s Locks believes that it is important for patients to feel their best during their treatments and have resources to help them cope. Wright left her job as an attorney to become one such resource as the leader of an organization that is committed to helping cancer patients maintain a sense of normalcy throughout their chemotherapy treatment.

“Looking good is intrinsically connected to feeling well, and is an important aspect of the healing process,” Wright says.

lollyslocks2

Credit: Andrew Werner.

“When my mom decided to get a wig, it was because she wanted to look as close to herself as possible, and she wanted be sick on her own terms,” Wright recalls. Toll brought her daughters with her to purchase her first wig, and they were surprised to learn that high-quality wigs cost about $1,500 to $3,000 — and that their insurance would cover only a small portion.

When Toll passed away in March 2012, Wright and her family decided to fulfill Toll’s dream of helping less-fortunate women battling cancer access the same high-quality wigs that she had. Today, Lolly’s Locks has provided 475 women in 47 states with customized wigs at no cost.

As a non-profit, Lolly’s Locks relies heavily on donations and fundraising to provide wigs for eligible patients. “We look to raise $1,000 for each of the recipients who apply,” Wright explains. “We have a very low operating cost, which means we can put most of our funds towards providing wigs.”

Over the years, the organization has cultivated partnerships with wig manufacturers that make it possible for Lolly’s Locks to accomplish its mission. Lolly’s Locks currently works with 11 providers who are committed to donating resources to the organization.

Lolly Locks also fundraises and gets exposure by holding creative events, including fashion shows, in-store events with Bloomingdale’s, and even by partnering up with wineries.

The company was also featured on NBC Nightly News and on The Today Show. “People know that there is a need for this and that there needs to be exposure. It’s amazing that people are talking about it [Lolly’s Locks] and can pass on what they know.”

“Gaining exposure is one of the most important factors” in increasing Lolly’s Locks’ impact, Wright says. It never wants to have to turn patients down and is doing all it can to keep Lolly Toll’s dream alive.

Posted: December 5, 2016

Ayzia KingThreading the Needle: Wigs for Cancer Patients