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Local girls donate their hair to make wig for another

Girl does good deed on mom’s birthday

POSTED: August 12, 2011 11:22 p.m.
/For The Times

Sawyer Diaz wears a wig made from hair donated by Zalissa Lomax and Olivia Martin.

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Zalissa Lomax, 7, and Olivia Martin, 10, have been inseparable this summer. They wear similar outfits, ride the same bus to Sardis Enrichment School and spend most of their time at each other's houses.

They also have matching chin-length haircuts, thanks to one enormous act of kindness.

Last week, Zalissa and Olivia gave a wig made of their own hair to Zalissa's cousin, 10-year-old Sawyer Diaz. Sawyer has alopecia, a condition that caused all of her hair to fall out last year.

Sawyer traveled with her family to Gainesville last week and spent four days with the Zalissa and Olivia. They splashed at LanierWorld at Lake Lanier Islands and hiked at Stone Mountain.

"We just bonded," Sawyer said.

Zalissa had never cut her waist-length hair, and she had never met Sawyer, who lives in Texas. But that didn't matter.

For Zalissa, the gift wasn't just a selfless act — it was in memory of the family she lost as a baby and her own miraculous survival.

Zalissa's mother, father and sister were killed years ago in a collision with an 18-wheeler going 110 miles per hour.

Baby Zalissa was in the car, and wound up covered in glass but perfectly safe.

"They didn't know she survived until they heard her cry," said Claudia Lomax, Zalissa's grandmother.

Claudia and grandfather Bob Lomax adopted Zalissa when she was 13 months old.

Zalissa is still learning to grasp her family's loss, but she understands how to turn a tragedy into a gift for others.

Last year, Zalissa started using her mother's birthday in April as an opportunity to engage in one random act of kindness.

"I do it to honor my mommy," Zalissa said.

Zalissa's mother was Lomax's youngest daughter.

"She was a very sweet, spiritual, giving kind of person," Lomax said.

For her first kind act, Zalissa donated boxes of toiletries to a Guatemalan mission.

This year, with April fast approaching, Zalissa wasn't sure what she would do for her mother's birthday.

Then Lomax found out about Sawyer.

Sawyer developed alopecia areata, a condition that causes partial or complete hair loss, after her last booster shots. In less than a year, all of Sawyer's hair, including her eyebrows and eyelashes, was gone.

"I was kind of scared, but I knew I could trust in God that everything was going to be OK," Sawyer said.

Sawyer had tried inexpensive synthetic wigs, but they were hot and itchy in Texas summers and drew comments from other children.

So Lomax snipped 12 inches off her granddaughter's mane. They sent the hair to a wig company, but it wasn't enough.

Then Zalissa's best friend Olivia agreed to donate her hair, too — 15 inches' worth.

"I was excited when I was getting my haircut. I had no idea how short I was getting it," Olivia said.

The night before Sawyer's visit, Lomax tried to curl the wig with rollers, but it wouldn't hold.

"I said, ‘This is like trying to curl Zalissa's hair.' Then I realized it was Zalissa's hair," Lomax said with a laugh.

Lomax was close with Sawyer's mother Cheryl Diaz when the two were children, but they hadn't seen each other in 20 years. As the family gathered in Lomax's home, Zalissa and Olivia's gift created an impromptu family reunion.

Sawyer, whose natural hair was dark and fell to her shoulders, said she looked like her cousin once she tried on the "butterscotch-colored" wig. Zalissa, Sawyer and Olivia have sent letters and chatted on the phone since Sawyer flew back to Texas last Saturday.

"Whenever I put it on, I think about how I miss them so much," she said.

Sawyer will start her school year later this month, in a new middle school. With Zalissa and Olivia's gift, she's not afraid of getting teased.

"I love it. I'm going to wear it to church and school and if we go shopping," she said.

 



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