June 17, 2009
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - To the average, everyday fan in attendance at a Cal State Northridge baseball game, outfielder Todd Eskelin looks just like any of his teammates in uniform, but with one notable difference.
Some members of the crowd wonder if he is superstitious, others wonder if he is just another low-maintenance college student. Either way, one can spot the sophomore from West Hills rather easily due to his long, dusty blonde hair sprouting from the back of his hat.
"Last summer I played ball in Maryland, and on my return flight I met two younger men in their mid-twenties with very long hair and started talking to them. They told me that they grew their hair long for Locks of Love. Afterwards, thinking about our conversation it became something that touched me."
What started out as a personal decision that has taken many of his friends and classmates by surprise, evolved into a well-respected one once others began asking the right questions.
"Even my girlfriend now, when I told her that I was doing this, and at first she didn't really understand or believe that I would follow through completely," explained Eskelin. "She thought at first that I was kidding with her. But once she found out more about my decision by asking questions, she truly understood my decision and is fully supportive of what I am doing."
With his stepmother having made a full recovery after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and positive news emanating from doctors currently treating his mother for the same disease, the decision to grow out his hair became an easy one for Eskelin to make.
"My mother really appreciate that I am doing this, and wanted to make sure that I was willing to participate from start to finish," stated Eskelin.
"I told my father and his wife and they were touched by my decision. Everybody in my family really supported my choice to do this."
Having participates in charitable causes before (Eskelin has donated blood on various occasions before deciding to grow out his hair for Locks of Love), the decision to grow out his hair is one that has even taken the sophomore by surprise on occasion.
"I have had some friends in the past that had done it, and I thought it was a neat decision on their part to participate, but I never thought I would do the same thing as well. With the things that happened recently, it felt that it was something that I should do."
A non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children ages 18 and under in North America suffering from medical hair loss, Locks of Love meets a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics.
Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, Locks of Love has created an easy to follow and unique set of criteria for donors interested in participating.
Hair must be styled into a ponytail or braided before it is cut, and must measure at least ten inches from tip to tip. Once the hair is clean and completely dry, it must then be placed in a plastic sandwich bag, and sent to the organization in a padded envelope that is provided by Locks of Love and mailed to the donor's residence.
All hair received is then processed and transformed into a hairpiece for use by a child in need.
A step-by-step video tutorial produced by Locks of Love on their website (www.locksoflove.org) has been created to answer any questions about the donation process, provide further information about the organization itself and ensure that donors follow all the established guidelines to make their individual donation a successful one.
Having grown his hair out since June of 2008, Eskelin currently sports a ponytail that is nearly three inches long, and predicts that the minimum requirements will be met by the end of the upcoming fall semester.
"There are times where I look at myself and are surprised because my hair has never been this long or grown to this length," exclaimed Eskelin.
Until he made the decision to participate for Locks of Love, Eskelin had never grown his hair any longer than a couple of inches, and routinely used his pair of grooming clippers to give himself a buzz cut to maintain as low-maintenance a hairstyle as possible.
Even though his hair has changed, his laid back approach towards his hairstyle still remains the same.
"I grew up in a household full of women so I had a deeper understanding about how I would need to maintain my hair as it keeps growing. The most difficult thing is maintaining my hair in the morning because I get morning hair; you can't leave it alone and need to groom accordingly. It only takes a couple of minutes to style it the way I want, and then I am good to go for the day."
"I do not notice the reactions from people on the street when I am just doing my everyday things. I do get some reactions from people I haven't seen in awhile in the classroom. They will comment that my hair is growing long and I will inform people about what I am doing. People who haven't seen me in a long time are amazed at the length of my hair."
The support that Eskelin has received during the process so far has not been limited to just family members, or classmates not seen for some time, but also include the coaching staff and teammates of the Northridge Baseball program.
"All of my teammates and coaches reacted positively. People really understood because they know my family, and know what my mother is going through. It was something that a lot of people felt it was a respectful and touching thing to do."
Even though his intentions are altruistic in nature, that does not necessarily mean that Eskelin is free from the playful banter that often takes place inside the clubhouse.
"I get teased about it, but in a jokingly manner. The best thing I have heard so far was being called the `Batgirl'."
In addition to preventing Eskelin's neck from being sunburned while roaming the outfield, his hair also serves a dual purpose.
"This is something that is a daily reminder of the cause, which is really nice because now that I am in college I have not been able to see my family much. It is a great daily reminder of what my mother is going through."
For those individuals who are interested in donating their hair to Locks of Love, or are interested in learning additional information about the organization itself and its cause, Eskelin recommends that people visit www.LocksofLove.org.
As for his advice for those individuals who are currently pondering the same decision he was faced with on that airplane trip last summer, Eskelin offers this:
"Don't think of this as just a cool thing to do, understand that once you make your decision you stick with it to the end because the process will take some time. This decision was a personal and meaningful one, and I do not regret it at all."