Sunday, 17 December 2017

Hair today, gone next week

AN eight-year-old boy has grown his hair long so that he can give it to children with cancer.

AN eight-year-old boy has grown his hair long so that he can give it to children with cancer.

Ben Avery last had his hair cut 18 months ago and it is now more than eight inches long.

In two weeks’ time he will donate it to the Little Princess Trust, which makes free wigs for young chemotherapy patients.

Ben lives in Cleeve Mill, Goring, with his mother Ginny, father Keith and 14-year-old brother Sebastian, who attends Langtree School in Woodcote.

Since the start of this year, the year 4 pupil has been going to Goring Primary School with his hair in plaits or a ponytail.

He has had it trimmed occasionally to keep it in shape but has allowed it to reach his shoulders.

Ben had to grow at least seven inches of hair before the charity could fashion a wig from it.

Despite teasing from classmates and being mistaken for a girl by grown-ups, he refused to give up until it was long enough.

Because each hairpiece costs £350 to make, he is also raising money for the trust through sponsorship.

He has collected £400 from friends and family and now hopes to get more support from local businesses.

When his parents sold his old climbing frame this summer, he asked them to donate the proceeds instead of buying him new toys.

Ben was born with severe asthma, eczema and allergies to eggs, dairy produce and milk. Because of this, he was frequently rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in the first few years of his life.

He experienced life-threatening reactions when he was weaned onto solids and had surgery to drain an abscess on his leg when he was five months old. On a later visit at the age of two, he shared a ward with a girl who was having chemotherapy and had lost all her hair.

His mother Ginny, a freelance speech and drama teacher, said: “Children are very curious at that age so naturally he asked me what was wrong with her.

“When I explained, he said: ‘I wish I could give her my hair, Mummy’ and my heart just turned over. I knew then that I had brought him up properly.”

When he was six, Ben saw one of his mother’s male students had long hair and decided he wanted a similar style. Mrs Avery, who had read about the Little Princess Trust, reminded him about his experience as a toddler and suggested that he help them.

She said: “He was hooked he loved the idea from the start. He has been teased so many times by his classmates and many parents have been shocked or surprised by what he’s doing.

“New teachers who come into the school mistake him at first for a little girl everybody seems to assume that when they see him for the first time. He has coped with it brilliantly and I’m surprised that he has never considered giving up.

“He sometimes comes home in tears because someone has pulled his hair or said something nasty but he’s been resolute. We’ve told him many times that he can stop if it all gets too much but he always refuses. He’s been doggedly determined to reach seven inches.

“The teachers at his school have been great and he has some very supportive friends who have stuck behind him. We are very proud that he has kept his focus and seen it through.”

Albert Fields in High Street, Goring, will be cutting his hair off for free on Friday, October 4. From 5pm until 7pm, the salon will also style customers’ hair in exchange for a donation.

Afterwards, Ben will post his hair to the Little Princess Trust and will receive a certificate for his efforts.

Mrs Avery said: “He is going to have it cut pretty short. I think he will miss his long hair and will be quite upset to see it go I’m prepared for him to be crying. He’ll probably also need to wear a woolly hat at first until he gets used to it.”

Ben’s conditions have improved since he was a toddler, although he still takes medication and must avoid the foods he is allergic to.

He carries an adrenaline injector, inhaler, skin cream and antihistamine tablets everywhere he goes in case of a sudden attack.

Mrs Avery said: “When he was younger, he was in hospital almost as much as he was out of it. We haven’t had an easy ride because of his illnesses. The fact that he’s found something to plough all his energies into is fantastic. I just hope he won’t be like Samson and lose all that energy when he loses his hair.

“It’s been an interesting exercise in raising awareness. People struggle to handle children who look different you get a lot of funny comments. That’s why children undergoing chemotherapy need these wigs. They’re going through enough rubbish in their lives as it is.

“Children like Ben who grow their hair for the Little Princess Trust are going through that period of looking different so that other children don’t have to. It gives those children a chance to look normal, even if they aren’t feeling it. I just think it’s wonderful for a child his age to be thinking of others like that.”

Mr Avery said: “Having two sons, I must admit I never expected to have to deal with things like ponytails. I’m certainly looking forward to when it comes off as it will make the early morning routine a bit easier. He has put up with a lot but he hasn’t allowed it to faze him. We’re all very proud of him.”

To support Ben’s cause, visit http://www.justgiving.com/benedick-avery

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