When my son Preston showed up to the fields at Mehl Park in March 2010 for his first Canyon View Little League baseball practice, one boy on his new team immediately stood out. It was Fletcher Redondo.
Fletcher, now 8, is a tall kid. He has a big smile and a fun-loving, positive attitude. He is athletic and strong. But the trait that immediately set him apart from the other boys was his long hair.
In June 2009, Fletcher began growing his hair out. He had watched a documentary on HBO about Locks of Love, a nonprofit group that uses donated hair to make wigs for children who are suffering from hair loss due to illness.
He thought growing out and donating his hair would be a good way to remember his dad, Mark Redondo. Mark died of cancer on April 14, 2005.
Fletcher's mom, Laura Belleau, and sister, Sofia, 11, have been supportive of his endeavor.
Fletcher said, "A lot of people think I'm a girl. If the three of us are out somewhere, I hear, 'This way, ladies.' I don't correct them, but my mom does sometimes. It doesn't bother me. I know I'm doing it for a good purpose."
Laura has had to explain the reason behind his long hair to St. Michael's Parish Day School, where Fletcher is a third-grader, and to Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, which Fletcher attended for a couple weeks this past summer. Both St. Michael's and Friendly Pines have a rule that boys keep their hair at or above their collar.
Fletcher has a lot of support from the staff and fellow students at St. Michael's. His teacher from second grade, Miss Myers, and three girls from his class last year also are growing their hair out.
He plans to have the ceremonial haircut at St. Michael's as well. The tentative date is April 14, 2012, the anniversary of his dad's death. To donate to Locks of Love, Fletcher's hair needs to be at least 10 inches long from the point where it is gathered in a ponytail. Right now it's 7 inches long. If his hair isn't long enough in April, he'll plan for Oct. 3, 2012, his dad's birthday.
When Locks of Love receives Fletcher's hair, it will be matched based on its color with other hair. To make one hairpiece, the donated hair of approximately 10 people is needed.
My family has been fortunate to get to know Fletcher and his family over the past year and a half. We know that there is so much more to Fletcher than his hair. He is a fan of music and theater, a talented athlete and a big UA fan. He has a generous spirit and has inspired others. I'm sure his remembrance of his dad through Locks of Love is just one of many wonderful things Fletcher will do in his life.
E-mail Kelley Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org