(AP) — Kieran Moïse’s afro was a splendid 19 inches, a huge part of his personality. But after six years of growth, the 17-year-old Alabamian knew that he and his hair would soon be parted: He was bound for the U.S. Air Force Academy.
So in memory of a friend who died from cancer, he cut it off and donated it to the nonprofit Children With Hair Loss, which provides human hair replacements to children and teenagers facing medically related hair loss due to cancer treatments, alopecia and burns.
“I knew I didn’t want it to just get cut off and thrown on the floor, so I wanted to give back,” he said. “I knew I wanted to send a message.”
He did — and many responded. Moïse printed out flyers and spread the word on social media for an event held by the nonprofit at a brewery in Huntsville, Alabama. There, family, friends and even some of his elementary and middle school teachers took turns cutting his hair in braids. His story was widely shared online.
“It’s good to see good news and see … that people are still doing good things, because all it does is inspire others,” he said.
“That’s really what I want to come out of this: I want other people to (say), ‘Hey, if he’s doing this, so can I.’”
Moïse also launched a fundraiser through St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which had helped his late classmate, Josh Quist. He died when they were in middle school. “That’s when I started hating cancer,” Moïse said.
Initially, Moïse hoped he could raise $19,000, or $1,000 per inch of hair. “Kieran’s Curls for Cancer” has exceeded expectations and has already raised nearly $35,000 for St. Jude.
Small gestures of kindness, Moïse said, can spread. “When you smile, that usually makes someone else smile, and then that one smile can brighten someone else’s day,” he said.
“I know I’ve had rough days where someone just does something nice for me or I see them do something nice to someone else, and I remember that the whole day.”