Regular readers of Retail Traffic might notice something slightly different about my appearance at the top of this page. The long hair I used to have is gone.

I wouldn't draw attention to my look except for the fact that I know a lot readers recognized me by my long hair and stopped me at this year's Spring Convention.

So I figured a brief explanation is probably in order. What happened is that I donated that hair, which I've kept long for more than a decade, to charity — specifically to a group called Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss. The decision was motivated by the fact that too many people I know both personally and professionally have been touched by cancer. And this was a way I saw as paying tribute to those individuals.

It was not an easy thing for me to do. You grow accustomed to seeing yourself a certain way. Even a seemingly small thing like cutting your hair can be a big deal. And it has definitely taken some getting used to.

More importantly, the process got me thinking a lot about what it means to give back. Giving something back to charity, I think, shouldn't always be easy. For me, this was an actual sacrifice. But when I thought about what people I know have gone through, it seemed like a very small thing I could do to recognize the struggles, pain and loss many have felt.

This process also made me think a lot about what kinds of things companies in the retail real estate industry are doing on a regular basis to give something back to communities where their centers are located or to charities. I have vivid memories back from 2001 when many companies and ICSC itself donated generously after the attacks of September 11. Besides financial donations, many retail properties across the country also hosted blood drives.

For most companies and high net worth individuals these sorts of activities are a regular occurrence. Last year, for example, wealthy individuals gave $285 billion to charity, according to the 2007 World Wealth Report, produced by Merrill Lynch & Company and the Capgemini Group.

Here at Retail Traffic we do get some word of these kinds of programs. We've tried to highlight some regularly as part of briefs in the Management Office section of our magazine. But we'd like to hear more about what companies are doing to give back and what kinds of gifts and grants the industry may be bestowing.

I'd encourage firms to contact me in coming weeks and months and let me know about philanthropic endeavors that are in place so we can continue to recognize this kind of work. Drop me a line or send me an email at david.bodamer@penton.com.

And keep a look out for a feature as we pull these ideas together.