Dec. 11, 2013
By Jon Cooper
There’s a big difference between freshman and sophomore years for athletes in all sports.
That difference is already obvious in Georgia Tech volleyball’s rightside hitter Annika Van Gunst and her twin sister, Teegan, an outside hitter.
Just looking at them, one can see the difference.
The Fayetteville, Ga., natives couldn’t be happier about their new look. In fact, they took the initiative in making it happen.
It’s a difference that will make a difference, although not really to them.
Gone is the long, flowing blonde hair that has been the signature of the former Whitewater High School stars for as long as they’ve been on the Georgia Tech campus. But the hair is not lost. It’s going to as fine a place as they could have asked.
The sisters donated their hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces for children that suffer hair loss from medical treatment.
Donating their locks became a must-do for the sisters as soon as they heard about it, which they estimate was approximately three years ago, and has become something of a family tradition.
“Our hairdresser mentioned that since we were getting so much cut off that if we had at least 10 inches cut off then we could donate it. We were like, ‘Why not?’ So that’s what we did,” recalled Annika (pictured to the left). “We did it that first time and then we did a little research and we saw that it went to kids with cancer to make wigs for them. It seemed like a good organization to give to.”
“It’s fun. We always get our hair cut and wrap the little rubber band around it and hold it up and take a picture every time,” said Teegan (pictured to the right). “It’s a lot of hair, so when you hold it up next to you you’re like, ‘That’s my hair! It’s not on my head anymore.’ So it’s something that we both enjoy doing.”
Being able to do something for disadvantaged children makes donating even nicer.
“I’m sure anytime is good, but I’m sure it makes kids especially happy around Christmas if they get a wig, when they’ve been going through chemo and they can get hair again,” said Annika.
“I like to give back whenever I can and I think of it as another opportunity,” she added. “Just to make some little kid’s day during the holiday season, to put a smile on their face, means the world to me. Around the holiday season it’s nice to be able to give a gift like that.”
Both sisters believe that donating to Locks of Love donations could become an annual part of the volleyball team, kind of a fundraiser doubling as a team activity, similar to Georgia Tech baseball’s St. Baldrick’s Day, when players shave their heads as a fundraiser in the fight against childhood cancer.
“A lot of our teammates do have long hair so that might be something we might look into,” said Teegan. “Having them all grow it out and all of us going and getting our hair cut together some time.”
“That would be really cool,” said Annika. “I know some people on the team don’t like having long hair but all of us that like having long hair that would be a really cool tradition to get started on our team. Anyone that wants to do it with us, they can grow out their hair just like us and we can all go together and get it donated. I think that would be cool.”
For more information on Locks of Love, including where to donate, visit www.locksoflove.org.
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