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5-year-old celebrates birthday by giving her hair



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July 07, 2010 - Anjali Issac wanted to celebrate her fifth birthday in a big way.

The young Independence Township resident sat tall at Alex Emilio Salon in Royal Oak and heard the snip of the scissors.

The sylist cut off two ponytails, both nine inches long, for the non-profit organization Children with Hairloss, June 22.

"It's for Ishan," she said, referring to her cousin who died when he was 2 from neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer. "It's for kids who lost their hair."

Her cousin Ishan Gala left an impression on Anjali and everyone who met him.

"Ishan was such a bright personality. He loved being around people," said Radhika, Anjali's mom. "The strength he had helped his parents get through so much of the pain. We say he was an old soul and was prepared for this. Even though he couldn't say it - he showed it through his personality."

Radhika was going to cut her hair when it was getting long a few months ago, but she measured it before she did.

After realizing it was between 8-9 inches, she had an idea and called Ishan's parents, Sejal and Mayank in Virginia.

When their son died, they set up the Ishan Gala Foundation.

"A lot of funding goes to research but not a lot helps the family while their children are battling cancer," said Radhika. "They decided their foundation would help research but a grant would go to families with children dealing with neuroblastoma. It goes towards hotel costs, toys and medical bills. Anyone can apply to the grant to help ease the process a little bit."

Radhika and her husband, Saj, were planning to have a fundraiser for the foundation including a golf outing, a spa day, or dinner. When Anjali's hair was measured, they decided to keep it simple and raise money through the hair donation.

Anjali was excited to help as the day approached.

"I was very proud of her to realize the impact she is having with other children," said Radhika.

They looked for organizations they could donate Anjali's hair to and found Children with Hairloss, based in Michigan which helps children with medically related hair loss.

"The wigs are free for children," Radhika added. "We were happy to meet with them and work with them."

Radhika set up a webpage on www.FirstGiving.com and called it "Big Haircut," for friends and family to donate. She would update her Facebook profile status to let them know the latest news. They raised more than $2,800 by June 22.

"It was fantastic," she said. "Friends and family all over the country were donating."

Anjali said she wanted to donate her hair again.

Radhika was touched when she heard it.

"It was really amazing," she smiled. "We were looking at it as our project and for her to take ownership it touched my heart. The dots were connecting and made it more meaningful to her and friends and family donating."

The family will continue helping the Ishan Gala Foundation.

"It is a lifetime commitment," Radhika said proudly.

For more information, check www.IshanGala.org.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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