Lake Bluff boy, 11, shakes off scorn to donate hair to Locks of Love

He withstood teasing and girls’ scorn for three years, but Rocco Royer, 11, said he’d gladly grow out his hair again to donate to a child enduring medical hair loss.

The Lake Bluff Middle School sixth grader had 11 inches of his blond hair cut off Tuesday, Aug. 19, for Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada who are suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis, according to the organization’s website.

The Royers family converged on the Teddie Kossof Salon Spa in Northfield this week to secure Rocco’s hair donation and see firsthand the drastic new look he will debut on the first day of school Thursday, Aug. 21.

Shocked to feel the back of his shorn head after stylist Cassandra Patras took the first swipe with the scissors, the freckle-faced Lake Bluffer smiled when it was all over — liking his new look — and promptly put his Lake Bluff baseball cap back on his head.

“I’m known as the pitcher with the long hair,” he said during the haircut, as Patras carefully placed each section of shorn hair on the counter for donation. “No one’s going to know who I am.”

At least until they get a look at his jersey number and four-seam fastball.

“Wow. That feels a lot lighter,” he said, smiling as younger brother Luca Royer, 8, watched and mom and dad Melissa and Sean Royer took photos and texted family members.

“Grandpa says, ‘Now I can see his ears,’” Melissa said, recounting some of their extended family’s initial feedback.

While growing hair for Locks of Love is not unusual — Patras averages five donations a month ­— having a boy donate his hair is quite unusual.

“In 20 years, I’ve probably had five,” Patras said.

Rocco makes six.

Inspired by a friend’s two sisters who grew out their hair four times to donate at least 10 inches, the Locks of Love minimum requirement, Rocco decided he could do the same thing.

“I wanted to help out a kid with cancer or leukemia,” Rocco said of his decision.

“We’re really proud of him,” mom Melissa said. “To make a decision so selfless at the age of 11 to do something to make someone’s life easier is pretty sweet.”

“It’s been an interesting pathway,” dad Sean noted. “A lot of times he’s been teased.”

But even teasing didn’t shake Rocco’s resolve.

“I didn’t care,” Rocco said of the teasing. “It meant nothing.”

Growing his hair to help someone meant more than being teased, Sean recalled Rocco saying at those moments.

Younger brother Gianni Royer, 9, sat during his older brother’s transformation, occasionally looking up from his smartphone game to snatch a glimpse.

“I think it’s a good thing for him to do,” Gianni said, “because it helps people who are sick and need help.”

If he can, Rocco said he’ll grow his hair out again, but, for now, is liking his new look and has big plans.

“I’m going to go to my friend’s house and introduce myself as the new kid from Australia,” Rocco said, wondering aloud who could possibly recognize him now.

For more information, go to www.locksoflove.org.

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