Tristan Swenson, 8, has been called a girl many times over the past two years. But he never let that stop him from his goal: to donate his hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hair pieces to children with medical hair loss.
“Some people thought I was a girl, and it didn’t make me feel good,” Tristan said. “But it feels very great now. I finally got to cut my hair to help kids who are sick.”
The third-grader at Kingston Elementary School had about 12 inches of hair cut Saturday at Reflections Hair Salon in Genoa.Danielle Swenson, Tristan’s mother, said she’s very proud of her son’s sacrifice. She said coaches and peers often mistook him for a girl, but he just let it “roll off his back.”
“We signed him up for football, and the coaches thought he was there for cheerleading,” Danielle said. “Another time he was pitching in a baseball game and someone thought a girl was pitching.”
Tristan said he got the idea to grow his hair from his dad. Both Tristan’s father and uncle have donated their hair.
“I had long hair at the time, and the reason I donated was my mom died of cancer in 1992 and she had a wig. I figured, I had nice hair, and I wanted to help a child,” said Brian Swenson, Tristan’s father, who donated his hair twice – in 1998 and again about two years ago.
Leif Lundgren, Tristan’s uncle, grew out his hair specifically to donate, after seeing what his brother-in-law did.
“He [Brian] was my inspiration,” Lundgren said. “It sounded like a good cause, a good thing to do. It’s a big commitment though.”
Lindsey Greenlee, the stylist who cut Tristan’s hair, said donating hair to organizations like Locks of Love is becoming popular, but mostly with girls.
“I don’t see a lot of boys,” Greenlee said. “Usually boys can’t last that long, they cut it off before [it’s long enough].”
Tristan said he’s ready to start growing his hair out so he can donate again. He said he wants to do this his whole life.
“He looks so different. He hasn’t had short hair since he was 6,” Danielle said with tears in her eyes. “But the fact that he wants to do this again, I don’t know if I can find the words.”
Lilly Robbins, communications director for Locks of Love, said the organization relies on donors like Tristan to make the hairpieces. She said anyone can donate, but the hair needs to be at least 10 inches long.
“Our mission is to return a sense of self-confidence to children suffering from hair loss,” Robbins said. “These pieces aren’t wigs that you can buy. They’re specially made for a specific child, and they’re as real as can be.”
Robbins said it takes between nine and 10 ponytails for one hairpiece. She said last year they made more than 400.
“There’s always a need for donations, as long as there are children to help,” Robbins said.
For information on Locks of Love or to apply for a hairpiece, visit www.locksoflove.org.
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8-year-old boy donates hair to Locks of Love