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Whitegate's Donnacha Hayes, a pupil of Mountshannon national school, who is about to cut his hair at the end of October, to raise funds for the Dyslexic Association of Ireland and The Children's Grief Project. Most of Donnacha’s locks will go to The Rapunzel Foundation. Supporting him are his friends from fifth and sixth class who are looking forward to the new look Donnacha. Donations can be made on www.idonate.com at donnachashairchopforchildren. Photograph by John Kelly

Young Clare boy going to extreme lengths for charity

A WHITEGATE boy has gone to extreme lengths to help a number of charities working with children. 

Ten-year-old Donnacha Hayes has been growing his hair for the last three years so that, once cut, his locks can be made into wigs for children with cancer. In the process, he has also been fundraising for The Dyslexia Association of Ireland and The Children’s Grief Centre, based in Limerick.

Next month, Donnacha’s long, blond tresses will get the chop, at a public event in Mountshannon, and he is already considering whether to let his hair grow out again. 

Donnacha’s mum, Orla, told The Champion her youngest son has always been very kind and considerate of others, and decided to undertake his fundraising campaign when he was just seven.

“Maybe it’s because he has dyslexia, but Donnacha has always seen himself a bit different,” Orla said. “For that reason, he’s always been really kind and thoughtful.”

In an interview with Scariff Bay Community Radio, Donnacha explained how he first became aware of the needs of children with cancer. 

He told The Saturday Chronicle show: ”When I was younger, I saw a video of a girl who had cancer and she was waiting for her wig. I showed it to my mam and said, ‘Could I grow my hair?’ Mam said, ‘Are you sure? This is normally what girls do’. I said, ‘I’m very sure’. So, I have been growing it for three years and I’m very proud of it now.”

Donnacha’s parents, Orla and Brian are also very proud, as are his sister, Alannah (17) and brother Oisín (19). 

Sports-mad Donnacha is involved in hurling, soccer, badminton and loves swimming. Over the last three years, keeping his hair out of his eyes has been something of a challenge. It’s one he has embraced, however, discussing hairstyle options with Oisín, and adopting looks favoured by high-profile soccer players like Gareth Bale.

“There was a kind of awkward middle stage,” admitted Orla. “Donnacha always had his hair a little long, but coming up to his Communion, people really started asking if he would be getting it cut.

“He hadn’t gone public at that stage about his reasons for growing his hair and then the pandemic hit, so he began telling people what he was doing. For sport, he would use a bandana and then at a rugby match, we saw another boy with long hair, so he realised then he wasn’t the only one.”

Donnacha said that he didn’t mind the slagging, especially when it turned out to be a way to raise awareness of cancer services for children. “I’ve gotten a lot of people saying, ‘Why aren’t you cutting your hair’,” he said.

“Also, at training, they would say, ‘We’ll get the scissors out. I love when people do, though, because it shows they’re thinking about it.”

Donnacha also told Scariff Bay Community Radio his reasons for donating to the two charities. He has dyslexia himself and his family has experience of the great work of The Children’s Grief Project.

“When I was younger, my brother [Ultan] passed away and my other brother, Oisin, went to The Children’s Grief Project to find a way to deal with my brother’s death,” he explained. “That was something that felt very close to my heart.”

To-date, Donnacha’s Hair Chop for Children Go Fund Me has raised more than €4,800. It’s a figure that has far exceeded his expectations.

“When he suggested that he would raise money for the charities, as well as donating his hair, he said to me, ‘I might be able to raise €50’,” Orla said. “It’s incredible to think what has been raised since then.”

Once cut, most of Donnacha’s locks will go to The Rapunzel Foundation, who require hair at 14 inches or longer. Anything below that length will go to The Prince’s Trust in the UK. 

Right now, hairdresser Anita Noone is sharpening her scissors ahead of the ‘hair chop’. That will take place at Cois na hAbhna, Mountshannon on November 13.

“It’ll be an opportunity to come together and celebrate what Donnacha has done,” Orla said. “This event isn’t about raising money, because we’re conscious of how many charities need support and how limited people’s funds are at the moment. This even will be a bit of fun.”

Donnacha has already confirmed that he won’t be getting his head completely shaved. “It’ll be cut in sections,” Orla said.

“It’ll be cut fairly close to the crown. I think Anita has a plan and Donnacha has a plan. Once it’s cut, I think he might miss it a bit because he has a great head of hair and lots of it, but he can always grow it long again, so I think that’s something he’ll think about.”

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