Cobb man hopes his long-awaited haircut inspires others

Just like that, it was gone.

The long ponytail that took Greg Shelby two years to grow was taken off with a snip of the scissors.

Shelby’s  haircut Wednesday at a salon near his Acworth home was like none he'd had before. Not only was it his 65th birthday, but his hair was being collected as a donation for Locks of Love, the Florida nonprofit that provides hairpieces for children with serious illnesses.

Shelby is not the typical Locks of Love donor, who is usually young and female, but his donation was no less personal.

Cancer has struck Shelby’s family three times, with a  sister-in-law diagnosed with breast cancer and two cousins with colon cancer.

“I’m blessed with not having any kind of cancer and I felt like I needed to do something,” Shelby said. “You can donate money, but what I wanted to do was to be an example and encourage other men to consider growing and donating their hair.”

Tracie Reece, the owner of Elequa Salon, where Reece received his haircut, also is no stranger to charity. Since opening her salon in 2005, she has provided her services for free haircuts for poor children, blood drives and fund-raisers. Her husband is a cancer survivor, having gone through Stage 4 malignant melanoma.

“I just want to help people," Reece said.

Since its inception in 1998, Locks of Love has donated hairpieces to more than 3,000 children in the United States and Canada, spokeswoman Lauren Kukkamaa said.

Children in the program can receive a new, custom-made hairpiece every 18 months until age 21. Six to 10 donated ponytails like Shelby’s go into each of the hairpieces, which retail for between $2,500 and $6,000.

The inspiration provided by Shelby and his stylist, however,  is priceless.