By Caitlin Moscatello
February 18, 2008

It started with a ponytail.

Marquette freshman forward Jocelyn Mellen had just come from watching film and had her long blonde locks pulled back in the usual position behind her head. Behind her were teammates Kelly Lam and Courtney Weibel, with equally long hair in the same laid-back style, just as they wore it during practice, games and around campus. The trail of tails was just the sort of inspiration the team's marketing coordinator, Jamie Hays, and assistant media director Amy Ufnowski had been seeking for a unique-take on the WBCA's "Think Pink" campaign, a nationwide push to raise cancer awareness.

"Jocelyn," Ufnowski said, "we want you to cut eight inches off your hair."

"Sure, I'll do it," Mellen replied. "Wait, what is this for?"

The hair went to the Beautiful Lengths campaign, which collects healthy hair to make wigs for women with cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

The decision to participate was easy for Mellen, whose teammate Erin Monfre lost her mother, Maureen, to cancer last month after three separate battles with the disease. To honor her, the team wears white bracelets inscribed with the word "Courage" and the letter "M". They also have the breast cancer ribbon stitched to the left side of their jerseys and Maureen's initials painted on their left sneakers.

"Our team has a strong backbone to give Erin," said Lam. "When she was going through this whole thing, even before Mrs. Monfre died, she knew we were always here for her."

Erin was on hand Feb. 9 when Mellen, Lam and Weibel went to a nearby salon to have their ponytails cut off. At first, Lam wasn't sure she could go through with it, but having Erin there to support her made a difference.

"Seeing Mrs. Monfre when she was healthy and then to see her go through losing her hair and needing to have a wig, it makes this issue very close to me," said Lam, who shed a tear the first time she ran her fingers through her new short hairdo.

The three haircuts were just the beginning. During the Marquette (14-11) home game against Seton Hall (13-11) last Saturday, Hays arranged for 10 girls and women from the community to have their hair cut on the court during halftime. One of the volunteers was Dr. Judy Tjoe, an oncology surgeon at Milwaukee's Aurora Sinai Medical Center who received a standing ovation from the 3,227 people in the stands.

"It's so exciting that we have all these volunteers ready to have their hair cut," said Lam, who has gotten used to her shorter locks and said she spends a lot less time getting ready now. "I have no regrets. This is something I could do that means a lot to someone else."

In addition to helping the Beautiful Lengths campaign, Marquette has raised more than $2,000 for the Milwaukee Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness Program with its "3-point Attack Against Breast Cancer", inviting people to pledge a donation for each shot completed outside the arc.

It takes six ponytails to make one wig, which means Lam, Wiebel and Mellen are just half of what one woman with cancer needs. But add their hair to the locks cut center court on Saturday, and there's enough for more than two wigs. That's two less women with cancer who have to look like they have, well, cancer.

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