Locks of love for dad

Published 12:03 pm Saturday, May 23, 2009

When Daryl Benson died Oct. 15, 2007, his son, Dylan, decided to honor his father’s memory.

He let his blonde hair grow.

When it reached the required 10 inches in length, Dylan had it cut and donated the hair to the Locks of Love organization.

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The haircut took place last Thursday night at Uptown Hair in downtown Austin.

The shop owner, Karen Cosgrove, trimmed 13-year-old Dylan’s hair, while the teen’s mother, Rhonda Benson, filmed the event on her video camera.

“He died of cancer,” said Rhonda, describing her husband’s death in 2007. “It was everywhere. It started in his appendix, then went to his lungs and finally his brain at the end.”

Dylan was the couple’s only child.

His act of kindness was inspired by a friend, Cole Peterson, who decided to donate his hair to the Locks of Love organization after the death of a close friend.

The death of his father was a devastating blow to the son. “He was the perfect father-figure,” he said. “He was the best role model I ever had.”

Fishing was but one of the favorite activities the boy remembers sharing with his father.

When Dylan told his mother about his Locks of Love plan, Rhonda went on the Internet to learn more about the organization.

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

The organization meets the unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses provided help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

The mother learned all she had to do was put Dylan’s trimmed hair into a ponytail, place it in a plastic bag and ship it to the Florida Locks of Love headquarters after completing a form. The organization then sends a confirmation back to the donor the hair was received.

Karen Cosgrove and her husband and the Bensons are good friends. Rhonda used to work for Cosgrove as a hair stylist before becoming a senior claims examiner for Mayo Health Systems.

Cosgrove said she has done other cuts for Locks of Love. “I’ve done several,” she said, “but this is my first child. Most of the time it’s adults.”

Cutting someone’s hair for the Locks of Love purpose is different than any other haircut or styling Cosgrove does.

“Especially,” she said, “if you know the person they are thinking of like I do in this case. I knew Daryl very well. My husband and I and Rhonda and Daryl were good friends.”

Dylan told his friends at Ellis Middle School that he was going to have all his hair cut off to honor his father and help another child who had suffered hair loss. One can only imagine the reaction when they saw him afterward.

“I really admire him,” Rhonda said of her son’s gesture. “Being a teenager is tough enough and he got a lot of teasing about growing it out so long, but he held strong.”

When Cosgrove finished cutting Dylan’s hair, the transformation was startling at first glance.

“Dylan has worn his hair short before,” the mother said of the teen’s past hair history. Her son said he liked the results.

“Dylan saw first-hand what cancer did to his father and also saw the many children who have lost their hair to this ravaging disease, during many visits to Mayo while his father was treating.

“While his father did not mind being bald, many of the young children did,” the mother said.

Someday, somewhere soon, a child of cancer will not have to mind that predicament at all thanks to Dylan Benson’s expression of lots of love for his father.