Students in the South-Western Career Academy's cosmetology program were offering free haircuts May 2 and 3 -- but it wasn't just for the benefit of those sitting in the styling chairs.

Those who were losing their hair by choice helped children and young adults whose hair loss occurs for medically-related reasons.

All of the hair shorn during the two-day Cut-A-Thon was going to be donated to Children With Hair Loss, an organization that creates wigs and provides them at no cost to those in need from treatments.

"We did a similar project last school year, but it was just as an extra activity," said Cami Owen, a senior SWCA cosmetology student who also served as publicity chairwoman for this year's event.

"It was a lot of fun and a really rewarding thing to do," she said. "The difference this year is that the event is serving as our senior capstone project."

More than 30 people, including Central Crossing High School students and community members, signed up to donate their locks, Owen said.

The participants were asked to have at least eight inches of hair cut, she said.

"We're also hoping to raise at least $300 to donate to Children With Hair Loss," Owen said.

The student barbers arranged each client's hair into five sections, two front and three back, and arrayed the hair to create a pony tail.

"Then we snip off the pony tail," Owen said.

While seniors did the actual cutting, juniors enrolled in the cosmetology program assisted by prepping participants for the haircut and shampooing their hair, she said.

Twenty-three seniors participated in the capstone project, cosmetology instructor Dawn Weaver said.

"Each student agreed to be part of one of two groups -- a promotional group or a communications/advertising group -- as part of their capstone project," Weaver said.

The seniors were being graded on a variety of elements, she said.

"Part of it is how much they are taking part in the planning of the event, some of it is how well they are interacting with their clients, because that's an important part of a career in cosmetology -- making your customer feel relaxed and comfortable," she said.

The seniors were also graded on how well they completed the haircuts they were giving, Weaver said.

While several hair-replacement charities were researched, the students decided Children With Hair Loss was a cut above, Owens said.

"We just liked the way they do things and that they provide the wigs to kids for free," she said.

Central Crossing freshman Kira Deerman had more than 10 inches of her hair cut for the cause.

"My mom and grandmother both had cancer and suffered hair loss," Deerman said. "So I know how losing your hair affects people. I wanted to do something for this cause, especially since it helps children."

Seeing so much of her own hair disappear was a little jarring, "but it was fine," she said. "It's no big deal, and it gives you a good feeling to be doing this."

Lyndsay Erdy is a veteran at donating her hair.

"This is my third time doing something like this," the Central Crossing senior said. "I did it the first time when I was about 6 or 7 and the second time when I was 10.

"It's a different experience now that I'm 18, because this is more of my own choice to do this," Erdy said.

Erdy said she still felt "a little anxious" as eight inches of her hair was clipped.

"It took a long time to grow it. I don't think I've had my hair cut for at least a year," she said. "But I know it's going to grow back, and I felt really good to know that I can help change someone's life forever."