Anchorage boy, 8, donates hair to help kids with cancer
Hair that's been a hindrance for an Anchorage boy is now helping other children live with cancer, after he recently donated it to make wigs.
Spring Hill Elementary student Austin Duffus sometimes gets mistaken for a girl.
"We'd go to a restaurant and (servers would ask), 'What would your daughter like to drink?' or, 'What would your daughter like to eat?'" said Austin's mother, Stephanie Burgoon. "And we're like, 'No; this is our son.'"
Sometimes people even tell Austin that he's going into the wrong public restroom, but he says he just ignores them and walks right past them.
The confusion has been a result of Austin's long hair, which he's been growing out for a year and a half. It's so long that he wears a hat at school, to keep his hair from getting into his eyes.
Why has Austin grown his hair so long?
"Because my cousin Brock, he had cancer and died from it," Duffus said, crying.
Burgoon says Brock Faulkner, 34, was a professor at Texas A&M University before he died from leukemia. Family and friends tried to help Faulkner by getting on the nationwide bone marrow registry list, to see if they were a match for him.
Burgoon and others also cut their hair, to donate to cancer patients who lost their hair from treatment.
"[Austin] was in kindergarten, came up to me and said, 'Can boys do that?'" Burgoon said. "And I said, 'Yeah -- why not?'"
Austin grew out his hair for more than a year, then cut it all and donated it to the Michigan-based group Children with Hair Loss, which makes wigs for young cancer patients and people who have lost hair due to a medical condition. His latest grow, which he had cut and donated this week, was his second.
"That's why I did it the first time," Duffus said. "It's a good thing to do, so that's why I did it the second time."
Austin's grandfather, Charles, also died of cancer before Austin was born. Burgoon has since told her son about cancer and the ancestor he never knew.
Burgoon, a teacher, says Austin has learned about compassion because of Charles and Brock.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he has such a love for family and he has such a love for other people," Burgoon said. "Yeah, he's just a good kid -- I'm really proud of him."
This week Austin mailed the braided pieces of his hair to Children with Hair Loss. Staff there say people under 21 get free wigs, a free kit of supplies and even free salon visits. The group has even sent wigs to people in Alaska.
Austin doesn't have any plans right now to grow out his hair again. But his mother chuckles at that, because she says that's what Austin said the last time he donated his hair.
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