DOVER — Dr. Ron Sarg, concerned over his immunosuppressed condition as a cancer survivor, has been basically confined to his home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
So he had a thought: Why not grow his hair out during his 22-month hiatus from barbershops and other social situations?
Dr. Sarg wasn’t making any kind of political statement or trying to start a new trend for 77-year-old men. He simply wanted to grow his hair, so he could donate it to Locks of Love, an organization whose mission is very close to his heart.
“I remember I saw my mother lose her hair several times,” he said, recalling her own battle with cancer. “She died at age 87, and it wasn’t until I saw her the last couple of days (before her death) that I realized that she didn’t have any eyebrows. She had tattooed them in. It just surprised the heck out of me that I hadn’t noticed that before.
“(Cancer survivors) try to present themselves as best they can despite their shortcomings — and especially physical shortcomings. I know how difficult it is for folks to go through chemo and suddenly lose their strength and their overall appearance, and it’s very, very depressing to them.”
It has been Locks of Love’s mission since 1997 to return a sense of self-confidence and normalcy to financially disadvantaged children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide high-quality hair prosthetics free of charge.
Perhaps fittingly, on Dec. 7, the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Sarg — a retired U.S. Air Force colonel — had a long overdue visit to JK Tangles Hair Salon on Lebanon Road.
Jesse Allen, owner of JK Tangles, was more than happy to oblige and carefully clipped and gathered the gray locks into a bundle for donation. Dr. Sarg’s hair had to reach at least 10 inches to be given to Locks of Love.
“This simple community outreach endeavor was a true privilege and pleasure, to safely and painlessly dedicate my hair to fellow cancer survivors who could use it more than me,” said Dr. Sarg. “It was the longest (my hair has) ever been. It got down to almost 12 inches, and the requirement was 10 inches.
“The great thing about Locks of Love is that they also took gray hair. It was an easy win-win for everyone. My neck felt a little chillier (after the haircut), but that’s OK.”
While Dr. Sarg hasn’t been outside his home much since the pandemic began, he has remained active via Zoom meetings with the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, the Council on Brain Injury, the Delaware Employment First Oversight Commission and the Military Officers Association of America.
He said he has endured occasional good-natured gibes from his fellow commissioners about his ponytail and his resemblance to Benjamin Franklin.
Dr. Sarg, a retired dentist, said making the decision to confine himself at home wasn’t a very difficult one — since he wanted to make it through the pandemic.
“My mom was a cancer survivor for many, many years and kind of succumbed to it,” he said. “I’m a cancer survivor, and I’ve got (multiple sclerosis) and Agent Orange exposure and kidney disease, a whole bunch of things, … so when COVID hit, that pretty much cut down my outside activities because I’m a super-high-risk individual.
“I’ve been spending the last two years like many people, tied to Zoom meetings. I’m on three different commissions and active politically, and it just became a simple effort with having trouble with cross-contamination and what have you. I’m a retired dentist, and so I understand that type of thing.”
Dr. Sarg was more than happy to do his part to help out somebody else with his Locks of Love donation.
“It was the type of thing (where) I felt very blessed in my life because I started out with a broken family and in poverty, and I’ve risen to what I’m doing now,” he said. “I’m very comfortable, and I’m a retired doctor, and I’m a retired full colonel military-wise, and you’ve got to pay it forward — you pay it back when you pay it forward.”
So would he be willing to let his hair grow again for another donation?
“I hadn’t thought about it. Possibly,” he said. “But now, I’m 77 years old, and I’m starting to get a little bit thin up there myself.”