Let's start at the very beginning
Hair with Heart is the national fundraising and hair donation program run by Variety – the Children’s Charity. The origins of Hair with Heart began in 2007, when former rugby league player Matthew Adamson’s daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with alopecia – an auto-immune condition that causes hair loss.
Matthew and his wife Rebecca established the Princess Charlotte Alopecia Foundation soon after to promote awareness of alopecia in the community and raise funds to supply quality, human hair wigs to people with alopecia. In 2013, the Foundation became part of the Variety family, becoming the Princess Charlotte Alopecia Program. Building on the amazing work of Matthew, Rebecca and their volunteers, it has continued to grow – granting wigs to children with alopecia and accepting hair donations to make into wigs for kids and adults with hair loss due to a medical condition. In 2016, the program grew into the Hair with Heart program.
Read below Charlotte and her Mum Rebecca's stories.
Charlotte's Story As told by Charlotte Adamson
When it first hit me as a child
Alopecia, what it is?
Alopecia is an auto-immune disease that has not only impacted me daily for the last 15 years, but a disease that I have let define me for 15 years too many.
I started losing my hair just after my 7th birthday. For me personally, I don’t recall the feelings or emotions I had during this traumatic time. I think I purposely blocked out all that I went through 15 years ago, and honestly, I was only seven at the time and don’t remember too much of the trauma of this time. My memories are stories that my Mum and Dad tell me. Stories of Mum trying to do something of what was left of the hair on my head for school and not even being able to put it all together in a hair tie and asking me if I was pulling my own hair out. I’m told I reacted with a lot of anger and frustration, confused as to why my Mum wouldn’t just do my hair how I asked for school. After about two weeks, I was completely bald. I remember going to the endless doctor appointments, confused as to what was wrong with me and what was happening, I was told it was due to stress (lies!)
I remember my first ever ‘wig’ I wore for 6 months. If you can even call it a wig. It was a cap that my mum had sewn a piece of red fake hair into the back ponytail bit of the hat. I wore it with pure and utmost confidence. This hat never came off my head. I wore it in the classroom, out for dinner, and around the house with my family.
When it hit me as a teenager?
I started wearing Freedom wigs (suction-based wigs,) just before my 7th birthday. These wigs changed my life. Allowing me to live every day and feel somewhat normal again when leaving the house. I finally felt like a girl.
The primary school I was at during the time I lost my hair was not very supportive or accommodating and as a result of the continued bullying, I moved schools. I moved schools three times during my primary years, and it certainly didn’t get easier. There is nothing I don’t like more than meeting new people and dropping the ‘I have alopecia card.’ Having to continuously tell people that no, it is not contagious, no I am not sick and yes, I am perfectly fine. It’s the dreaded questions. The wig became my security blanket during primary school. Every year I received a new one and still to this day, I name each wig I get. These wigs mean the world to me as they allow me to live my life with truly nothing holding me back.
From losing my hair when I was 7, to now having just turned 21 and living daily with a condition that I feel the need I must cover up and hide the real me every day, by putting on that wig, it doesn’t get easier. The transition and hardest part of living with alopecia for 15 years, for me personally, is the stomach aching feeling I get every time I meet someone new. The feeling of having to share what I have, to tell that I’m different, and see how the person on the other end reacts.
And current times going into the adult years
In 2018, it was my last year of school and I began to feel more confident and comfortable wearing my wig much less. I’d start leaving the house to go out for coffee and not feel the need to have to put my wig on. This wouldn’t have been the case without the support and love from my friends and family, who made it obvious that they did not care, hair or no hair I was still the same Charlotte.
Don’t get me wrong, there are endless weeks where I find myself writing a list of both pros and cons to this disease, days where I wake up and see my wig sitting on the stand at the end of my bed and just want to hide under my covers and throw the wig out the window, but I can never bring myself to physically do that. When I think of all the incredible people I have met, I don’t wish for my alopecia to go away, but I certainly don’t wish for it to stay.
It’s not a condition that I would wish upon anyone, however, I personally am grateful daily that alopecia is not life-threatening, but certainly life-changing.
How it works
Commit to chopping your hair, set the date and get ready to help give kids a fair go.
Your hair will be made into a wig for someone who has lost their hair due to a long-term medical condition.
Rally the support of friends and family to help you on your Hair with Heart journey, and raise money for kids in need.
Money raised will help kids who are sick, experiencing disadvantage or living with a disability.
Learn more about Hair with Heart
At its core, Hair with Heart is a hair donation program. Each year, Variety receives over 6,000 donated ponytails from big-hearted girls, boys, women and men from across Australia, and occasionally further afield too.
The funds Variety receives for the hair allows us to grant these wigs, as well as other types of wigs, including synthetic, to kids who have lost their hair due to a medical condition, including alopecia and other rarer conditions, such as Trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder. By donating hair to Variety, the donors are helping more than one person!
There are some strict guidelines that the hair must meet due to the type of wigs that are created. The hair must be a minimum of 35.5cm and unprocessed – meaning no dyes, including semi-permanent, chemical straightening, perms or dreadlocks.
Check out the Guidelines Start Fundraising
A Mother's Story - By Rebecca Adamson
When our beautiful 7 year old little girl lost her hair we were in total shock and disbelief. We didn’t even know such a cruel condition existed and it totally turn a young girls identity and image upside down and left so much trauma for her and our family.
I remember it like it was yesterday…. I was doing Charlotte’s beautiful auburn hair in pigtails for school when I noticed a bald spot on the crown of her head. I asked her if she’d been pulling her hair out to which she said “no way!” I thought to myself how strange and that I’d just keep and eye on it. Well, within a week it had gone from the size of a 20 cent coin to three times that size!
I quickly made an appointment with our GP and from there the endless appointments began…..within a month Charlotte had pretty much lost all her hair. I remember creeping into her room at night to check to see if her eyelashes were falling out (which they were) and then crying myself to sleep trying to understand how this could be happening.
With her confidence stolen we needed a solution that would give her back a piece of her former self so she could at least leave the house! That’s when, thanks to an amazing dermatologist, we discovered “Freedom Wigs” and immediately phoned Martine to start the process of creating a new head of hair for Charlotte. From that first bald spot to finding Martine we felt incredibly alone in the whole journey. Martine restored hope in that she herself had alopecia and all was going to be ok. With Martine's encouragement we started “The Princess Charlotte Alopecia Foundation”- to provide support and funding for wigs for those with Alopecia.
Story of “Tresses for Princesses”
Little did we know that sourcing gorgeous auburn hair for her wig would be our next challenge.
At this time the lucrative business of hair extensions was on the rise which made it all the harder and more expensive for wig companies especially those that needed “real hair” to make the high-quality wigs that are needed for people with long term hair loss from a medical condition.
The more we learnt and researched about the process of sourcing and purchasing the much needed and highly valuable hair we discovered a need within Australia to educate and encourage people to donate their hair. And so “tresses for princesses” was born - with the aim to raise awareness, educate and encourage people to donate their hair.
We were so overwhelmed by the response of people wanting to help that within a few years of its commencement we felt it was time to hand it on to an organisation that could take it to the next level nationally and therefore help more people…..
We are forever grateful Variety for all they do supporting kids and their families that have needs that require that extra bit of support financially and emotionally. We thank them for the continued success of “Hair with Heart”. We love seeing the stories of people, especially kids, who have selflessly donated their locks - seeing their smiles and experiencing the joy that comes in doing something for someone else.