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Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.

With her long hair tied into 42 bundled locks, a nose-crinkling grin formed on 11-year-old Addison Matoski's face.

Many middle-schoolers — particularly girls — would have been horrified by the hair stylists' scissors as one by one, Addison's plethora of pony tails were sheared from her head.

Addison just smiled, in spite of any peer chiding some of her family members feared she might face by altering her appearance in such a fashion.

"I can always grow it back," Addison explained as stylists at Valparaiso's Glamore Salon and Spa clipped her beautiful brownish-blond locks.

"So many other kids lose their hair and can't grow it back. It's why I'm doing this today."

Just a couple of days prior to the momentous haircut, Addison had convinced her parents to let her donate her locks to Children With Hair Loss, a nonprofit organization that uses donated human hair to fashion free wigs for children who suffer hair loss from various illnesses and conditions, including cancer treatment.

That she went through the act with a brave smile speaks volumes to her character and provides hope of the giving spirit thriving in some Region youth.

Not many folks tear up as they witness a haircut.

But on Wednesday night, there were few dry eyes at the Valparaiso salon as the hair bundles were tied and then cut from Addison's head, reducing her hair to a short coiffure. Salon workers and family members alike were moved to tears.

Count Addison's mom, Christina Cunningham Matoski, of Valparaiso, as one of the people staring through prideful tears Wednesday night.

When Addison asked if she could donate her hair to the charity earlier in the week, Matoski admits she initially feared for any repercussions her sixth-grade daughter might face.

Addison's older sister, Bronwyn, a 14-year-old who attends the same Valpo middle school, had similar reservations.

"But I told Addison to ask her father to see what he thought," Matoski said, noting surprise when Dad — Ilija Matoski, also of Valparaiso — expressed approval.

Ultimately, Mom said yes, too.

Matoski likely knew there was no stopping Addison's charitable desires.

This was the child, after all, who asked for the money she typically receives for Christmas early — not to spend on herself but to buy gifts for others whom Addison knew would not be able to afford what they desired this year.

Addison said she actually decided she wanted to donate her hair to charity some 30 days before approaching her parents with the idea.

A sister of a friend had made a similar donation.

After watching a YouTube video showing how the hair is used and the children it benefits, Addison said she was determined.

So was she nervous regarding the transformation?

"No," she told me Wednesday, sitting on a salon couch after the charitable haircut concluded.

"Kids out there really need this help. More people should be told about that so they might donate their hair, too."

It's the kind of example the parents among us can only hope shines forth in our children.

Middle school can be a merciless pit of teasing and chiding based on a child's appearance.

It's an awkward, often socially tumultuous rite of passage most of us experience.

So when a child's heart of gold overpowers any fear of that fallout, it's worth taking note.

Addison put her heart of gold on full display for all of us Wednesday night as 42 bundles of hair fell to the scissors.

Some child, whose innocent appearance has been marred by uncontrollable disease, will benefit because of it.

"Thank you for letting us be a part of this," stylist and salon owner Stela Cheng told Addison during the haircut. Cheng donated the haircut and kept her business open after hours to make it happen.

We all should thank Addison for her strong example.

An 11-year-old Valpo girl just showed us all that charity means more when backed with selfless bravery.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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