PRINCETON — Jessica Pendleton gave up her ponytail Tuesday so another child would never be picked on for not having hair.

The Straley School third-grader watched through the mirror while Body Elements’ Nina Cole cut 12 inches off her hair, and smiled when she saw the stylist holding her long locks.

“I’m happy now,” Jessica said, while her grandmother, Sarah Reed, and Body Elements staffers prepared the hair for Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that creates hairpieces for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments or a disorder called alopecia areata.

In many ways, Jessica is a typical student. She loves to dance, likes to read, appreciates her teacher, can’t stand math and wishes she had a dog.

But, Jessica knows what it’s like to be different.

She suffered a stroke when she was just 4 hours old, which paralyzed her right side and left her with mild cerebral palsy and a speech impediment, Sarah said.

“But, I think she’s doing really well,” she said. “She’s a real go-getter. When I was showing her pictures from Locks of Love, she said she wanted to send her hair to them so the other kids wouldn’t have to feel different.”

Sarah admitted to being a little nervous herself as her granddaughter prepared for the cut, but she said she was also happy Jessica was reaching out to lift someone else up.

“I would just hate to see such beautiful hair just fall to the ground when it could be helpful,” she said.

Locks of Love will accept shorter lenghts of hair as long as they will fit into a ponytail, but the more hair a donor can send, the better.

Jessica had grown her hair for years and had once planned to let it grow to her feet, but she was ready for a shorter style Tuesday.

“That’s a very unselfish thing you did,” Nina told her as she styled the inverted bob Jessica chose as her new cut. “Some little girl is going to be tickled to have it.”

As for Jessica, she said she hoped whoever got her hair would enjoy it and feel better.

“I want to help kids with problems, and I’d like to tell her I’m sorry she has cancer,” Jessica said.

Her sister, Monica, had once intended to donate her hair too, but she decided hers needed to grow some more before the big cut.

“I want to say that I’m really proud of my sister for doing this, though,” Monica said.

Body Elements provides free cuts and styles for anyone contributing their hair to Locks of Love. Carly Dillon, of the salon, told the Princeton Times in an earlier interview that both the Locks of Love recipients and the donors are special people. Children are often the ones who decide they want their hair to help others.

“Something touches them, and they decide to give their hair,” she said. “That’s a real gift.”

For more information on Locks of Love, visit the organization’s website at www.locksoflove.org.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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