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“Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s girls who come in to donate hair,” said Cozy Friedman, the salon owner. She’s facilitated many hair donations at her Upper East Side kids salon in New York City over the years, but was struck by Kaleb and his grown-up attitude toward cutting his hair and donating it to kids with cancer. “We put his hair into three ponytails,” she told TODAY Parents. “We cut 14 inches off, but left him with about 12 inches of length so he could still put it back into a ponytail. He kept feeling back there once it was gone.”
Friedman says that donating hair can be an ordeal for many kids, since they’ve grown accustomed to having long hair, and that many of her customers end up crying and feeling a bit traumatized. “I spent time with the mom before because I’ve seen kids get emotional,” she said, explaining that many kids feel that their hair identifies them.
Kaleb’s mom, Soveida Cespedes, 37, says that her son has had long hair since age 2, but was inspired by his piano teacher to grow his hair in order to donate it. “He was 4 at the time. What his teacher did stuck in his head. He said, ‘Mom, I want to donate my hair.’” She describes her son as very compassionate and “always worrying about other people.”
Cespedes, who lives in New Jersey, found Cozy’s Cuts through a Google search. “I was looking for a nice place to make it fun for us, and I read about Cozy and knew she would take care of us,” she said. After about 40 minutes of detangling with hair products, the cut was finished. Kaleb did not cry, and told his mom he felt happy about the experience, though he is still getting used to his new shorter do.
And although Kaleb has since been celebrated for his good deed, the family did come up against some obstacles due to the boy’s long locks. The private Catholic school Kaleb attended notified Soveida that according to the school handbook, boys are not allowed to have long hair. They initially allowed Kaleb to attend the school with his long hair due to his mission to donate it, but when Kaleb showed up for 3rd grade this fall, still not having cut off his hair, mom began receiving email warnings.
In the end, she decided to pull Kaleb from the school over the hair issue and other reasons. He’s now in a different private school where Cespedes says there are “no judgments” over hair length for boys or girls. She hopes her son’s journey will inspire other kids to grow and donate their hair.
Back at the salon, Friedman says she strives to make donating hair a positive experience. “We are helping children embrace who they are and helping them celebrate their individuality,” she said.