Aug. 23, 2010
• Video: Carimi Makes His Donation
|Carimi poses with the hair he donated to Locks of Love.
MADISON, Wis. -- The list of players to earn preseason All-America accolades during the offseason is a pretty short and exclusive one.
The list of those who have been touched by cancer during their lives, unfortunately, is much longer. That’s a fact not lost on someone who fits into both categories, Wisconsin senior offensive lineman Gabe Carimi.
“Everyone’s been affected by cancer, has someone who has been affected by cancer in their life, and for me it was my uncle,” Carimi said. “My mom’s brother was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 7, and we have plenty of family friends that have been diagnosed with breast cancer or brain cancer.”
That connection led Carimi, a three-year starter for the Badgers, to make a long-term commitment to helping children stricken with illnesses that lead to hair loss.
Carimi decided that, although a simple gesture, growing out his hair for a donation to Locks of Love could make a major impact for a child somewhere. The non-profit organization provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who lose their hair for medical reasons, using donated hair to create the hairpieces.
“Since the Champs Bowl when we played Florida State, so a year and eight months,” Carimi said when asked how long it took him to grow his flowing mane. “I think it was last (fall) camp … I thought I already had about half the length, so I could just wait another year and donate to a good cause.”
Making a small sacrifice for someone who must make much larger ones because of illness is something that makes Carimi’s mother, Alayne, proud. She was on hand the day before the opening of Fall Camp 2010 to help Gabe trim up and collect the hair for Locks of Love.
“Gabe doesn’t have, between football and his studies with engineering, a lot of extra time to do community events, and that’s one of the things we always taught the kids, to make the world a little better place.
“This was something that didn’t take much time other than the conditioning of the hair and still has significant value to people.”
It’s a value Alayne knows first-hand after her brother endured chemotherapy and lost his hair because of childhood leukemia.
“When my brother went through chemo, he lost all his hair,” she said. “He was in second grade and, as a second-grader, you know how cruel kids can be.
“It was hard to be running around with a wig on that didn’t look right, didn’t look like real hair.”
There was no questioning the authenticity of Gabe’s long, flowing hair. The last time it had met a pair of scissors was on the eve of the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl, when teammate Lance Kendricks did the styling.
Prior to that, Alayne was always responsible for keeping Gabe neat and trim.
“She always cut my hair in high school,” he said.
So Alayne was the natural choice when it came time to collect Gabe’s hair and send it to Locks of Love.
“You have to have it in a ponytail – they don’t want to have a ball of hair –so it has to be in a ponytail and it has to be 10 inches long,” Gabe said. “Since my hair isn’t in a ponytail long enough to be 10 inches, we have to make lots of little ponytails in order to make one big one.”
From there, it’s just a matter of packaging the ponytail and sending it to Locks of Love’s offices in Florida.
Besides providing happiness to someone suffering from illness, Gabe’s donation also has some added personal benefits when considering the 90-degree temperatures the Badgers have been practicing in over the first two weeks of camp.
“It’s a lot cooler,” he said.
UW Athletic Communications