NORTH FORSYTH — For a 10-year-old, Cayla Cowart is quite familiar with cancer.
One of her grandmothers is a breast cancer survivor and the other is battling multiple myeloma. Cayla also was a cheerleader with Lily Anderson, an 11-year-old who died in December 2012 after a three-year battle with neuroblastoma.
After meeting so many people affected by the disease, Cayla was inspired to begin donating her hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that accepts donations of hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Last week, she donated her hair for the third time, continuing a tradition she began at age 5.
It was the struggles of other children who had cancer that made Cayla want to help. And she realized, as her mother Natalie said, it’s “just hair.”
“I kind of saw how Lily was still fighting ... and how she lost her hair, and I felt like I had enough hair that I could grow back out,” she said.
Cayla, who lives in North Forsyth, has grown up with two older brothers. She has loved sports and the outdoors. Hair, her mother said, is the least of her worries.
Though the family is no stranger to cancer, Natalie Cowart said the focus isn’t on the donations. They instead choose to honor the many others who lose their hair because of cancer treatment, especially other girls, like her inspiration, Lily.
Cancer, however, is not a forbidden topic.
“(She) has been around cancer,” Natalie Cowart said of her daughter. “We don’t hide it ... we pray every day.”
Cayla was surrounded by family June 19 when she sat in hairstylist Brandie Soderman’s chair to donate 11 inches of hair.
Cuttin’ Up hair salon on Dahlonega Street in Cumming was full of support for her, as well as the girls with cancer she wants to ensure don’t have to go without hair.
Hairstylist Farrah Adkins said the salon wanted to honor Kylie Myers, a 12-year-old South Forsyth girl who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in April, by using a photo of Cayla for the “Smiley for Kylie” campaign.
The campaign involves people posting photos of themselves with the hashtag #SmileyforKylie to show support for Kylie during her treatment.
Supporting other girls is, after all, Cayla’s goal.