By Brandon B. QuinnBradley Bockhaus, a fourth-grader at the Southampton Elementary School, has laughed off being mistaken for a girl for two years.Over that time, the 9-year-old has endured strangers commenting on his long blond locks, and his mother trying to tame his mane as he runs out the door for school.
But that all changed last week, and not because he was sick of being called “sweetie” and “honey,” or because another hot summer has just arrived on the East End.
Bradley cut off 14 inches of his hair for Locks of Love, the non-profit organization based out of West Palm Beach, Florida, that accepts donations of hair in order to provide hairpieces to financially challenged children suffering from any medical condition resulting in long-term hair loss.
“We’re so proud of him,” said Jennifer Bockhaus, Bradley’s mother. “It takes a lot of guts for him to grow his hair out for so long. And now that everyone is used to it and he’s finally comfortable in his own skin with it—laughing off comments from lacrosse opponents about being hit by a girl—it is even more brave for him to cut it all off.
“It has really become a part of him—his identity,” she continued.
Bradley’s entire family, which includes his father, Bill, 11-year-old brother, Billy, and 6-year-old sister, Brooke, are proud of him as well, though his older sibling is now teasing him about his new short hair, “like a big brother should,” according to their mother.
The idea to donate to Locks of Love came about when a friend of Bradley’s mother, Alana Bertolini of Palm Coast, Florida, had a daughter, Ashlan, then 2, who was ill. She was receiving treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, at the time.
While brainstorming ideas to help the Bertolini family, Mrs. Bockhaus said she asked Bradley if Locks of Love was something he’d be interested in. Although they have differing views on how the idea was originally received—Bradley says he was reluctant at first, worrying about what his friends would think, while his mother says, “He was up for it right away”—they both agree on why he ultimately chose to go through with it.
“It makes me happy that I can help other people,” Bradley said.
“He’s very aware of why we are doing this and I’m sure it makes him happy to help people,” added his mother, who ended up organizing the hair donation drive that culminated last Thursday, June 20, at the 27 Hampton Salon in Southampton.
Six of Bradley’s classmates—Citlolli Martinez, Samantha Brenner, Jessica Moranchel, Lily Esposito, Leyla Prieto and Gabriela Cardenas—and one of their teachers, Kellie McGann, also participated, as did a mother-daughter combo, Sophia and Nancy Rojas of Hampton Bays.
Together, they donated more than 100 inches of hair, according to Ms. Bockhaus. It generally takes between six and 10 donations to make a single hairpiece.
“Bradley deciding to donate his hair is impressive, especially for someone his age to be aware enough to do so,” said Ms. Bertolini, who added that Ashlan is now 4 and healthy.
“Not only will this give some sick child a little more strength to face the world, but it can help create awareness among other young people and inspire them to donate,” she added.
And while he is more than happy to help others, Bradley said he is going to take this opportunity to help himself as well.
“People are going to be shocked that I cut it, but I like this [look] better than the long hair,” he said. “I’m going to keep it short for just a little while over the summer—before I start growing it for other people again.”