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Hair and heart of gold

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Sixth-grader Joshua Wright, 11, has grown a lot.

For more than a year, he’s been growing his hair for Locks of Love, a program helping disadvantaged children with medical hair loss receive a hairpiece.

Wright got to the minimum 10 inches needed for a hairpiece and decided that Friday, May 28, was a long enough wait.

“I’m happy to be done growing it for now,” Wright said.

The hard but high road
Growing his hair was an easy decision for Wright.

Last year his brother Luke fell off a roof while working, which led to back problems and unemployment.

“I knew I couldn’t help him physically so I needed to blow off some steam another way,” Wright said.

About that time he saw a story about Locks of Love and felt a warm feeling that he interpreted as a sign to grow his hair long for someone else.

He dedicated his hair to Luke.

Growing understanding
At first other students didn’t notice Wright’s lengthening locks, but as the inches grew so did the heckling.

“I had to put my reputation down for a bit,” Wright said.

But bullies didn’t care, his mother, Tonya, said.

The bullying got so bad, Wright said, he didn’t want to go to school.

He was beaten up several times.

“I think it’s because they didn’t understand,” Tonya said.

“I just can’t believe I was dealing with this over hair.”

In the grocery store, Wright was mistaken for a girl.

The family became frustrated, but Wright never wanted to quit.

“I’m proud of myself,” he said.

“My mom wanted me to cut it at a few points, but I said ‘No.’”

Hopeful hair
One source of inspiration was Wright’s Sequim Middle School math teacher Shannon Paselk, who grows her hair for Locks for Love because her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She gets a haircut only if it’s time to donate. 

“Josh is a brave student to grow his hair out in sixth grade,” she said. “When Josh explained to me that he was growing his hair out to give back after his brother hurt his back, I knew this was a special boy.” 

She, Wright and a student who was teasing him had an intervention meeting to explain the significance behind his long hair.

Wright told the student about Locks of Love and the student apologized and offered to help others understand it.

“Josh is an example of how communication instead of retaliation is important to stop bullying and resolve conflict,” Paselk said. “He is also an example of how selflessness and generosity can happen at any age, for any reason.”

The final cut
Wright and his mom went to Studio 13 on South Sequim Avenue for his haircut.

“This is like a turning point for you,” said salon owner Peggy Sill as she banded Wright’s hair to cut. “You stuck to your convictions.”

Sill said cutting a boy’s hair for the program was a first for her but women come to the salon about once a month to donate their hair. Sill saves customers’ cut hair and donates it to Matter of Trust, a natural fiber recycling company that recently sent hair stuffed in nylon to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Wright was ecstatic to have short hair again — at least for now.

“The best part is my hair won’t be bed wrangled anymore,” he said.

Growth spurt
This haircut might be Wright’s last for at least a year.

“I’m probably starting to grow it already,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how my hair will look on another kid.”

Wright’s mom finds a lot of inspiration from him.

“He’s a go-getter,” Tonya said. “There’s not a lot of 11-year-olds like him.”

Paselk agreed.

“He has a remarkable ability to empathize at such a young age, I can’t wait to see what he does for others as he continues to grow,” she said.

For more information on Locks of Love, visit www.locksoflove.org.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.


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