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La Jolla salon helps 7-year-old give back

Salon Elle in La Jolla recently provided a special haircut to a special 7-year-old girl wanting to help children needing hair replacement.

Gabriella “Ella” Martinez of Spring Valley has thalassemia, a form of anemia that requires blood transfusions every two to three weeks for the rest of her life, which she currently gets at Rady Children’s Hospital. The blood is provided by the San Diego Blood Bank.

Gabriella ‘Ella’ Martinez with her mother, Erica, holds a bag containing 12 inches of hair Ella cut for charity at Salon Elle in La Jolla. Courtesy
Gabriella ‘Ella’ Martinez with her mother, Erica, holds a bag containing 12 inches of hair Ella cut for charity at Salon Elle in La Jolla. Courtesy

“People help me by giving blood and I wanted to return the favor and give my hair to kids that don’t have any hair,” Ella told La Jolla Light.

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Ella’s mother, Erica Martinez, told the Light that during a hospital visit, a nurse told Ella she had beautiful hair, and that one day, she could donate it to a child that doesn’t have hair. “One day, the nurse brought out a little baby and said, ‘your hair could go to someone like this, so they could have hair.’ ”

Gabriella ‘Ella’ Martinez, before she had 12 inches of hair cut and donated it to charity.
Gabriella 'Ella' Martinez, before she had 12 inches of hair cut and donated it to charity.
Gabriella ‘Ella’ Martinez with her mother, Erica, after ella donated 12 inches of hair to Wigs For kids.
Gabriella 'Ella' Martinez with her mother, Erica, after ella donated 12 inches of hair to Wigs For kids.

Ella loved the idea, but decided to wait until after her aunt’s wedding to get the big cut, her mother said. When ready, Ella had 12 inches of hair (2 feet when stretched out!) cut at Salon Elle by owner Erin Doumert. The hair was donated to Wigs For Kids, a nonprofit that provides hair to children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, burns or other medical issues.

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Doumert said she has a couple of customers every month who donate their hair to a hair replacement program. “We offer a discount and send in the hair to the charity on your behalf,” Doumert said.

Of the new ‘do, Ella said it was “weird” to suddenly have hair above her shoulders, after a lifetime of long hair. “I love to play with my new short hair, sometimes it feels like I still have long hair, so it’s weird now. It’s really weird to go to sleep with less hair,” she said.

Inspired by her daughter’s good heartedness, Erica decided, in a last-minute decision, to also donate her hair. “Erin at Salon Elle looked at me after she cut Ella’s hair and said ‘do you want to cut yours too’ and I just went for it,” she said, noting that Doumert chopped more than 15 inches of hair off. Ella even helped cut off her mother’s ponytail.

Since then, Erica has used the haircut as a conversation starter, so she can share her daughter’s story and encourage others to donate blood to the San Diego Blood Bank.

David Wellis, CEO of San Diego Blood Bank, added, “Not many kids would be selfless enough to give up their own hair, and Ella provides us an excellent example of how gratitude for a life saving blood donation can be further perpetuated through the community, even beyond blood donors.”

The San Diego Blood Bank, the primary supplier of blood to the majority of hospitals in San Diego County, is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit that serves hospitals in San Diego, Orange, Imperial and Los Angeles counties with blood transfusion products and reference laboratory services. Founded in 1950 with the support of the San Diego County Medical Society, SDBB currently operates six local donor centers and 10 bloodmobiles. More information at sandiegobloodbank.org