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Tot's cancer inspires Brevard boy to grow, donate hair

Wyatt Robertson was teased, tormented and called a girl. But those taunts couldn't deter his desire to help children with cancer.

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MELBOURNE, Fla. – Lillyana Worthington wasn't sure how to take in her neighbor's new hairstyle.

The 3-year-old stood on a stepstool while scanning over a closely cropped Wyatt Robertson, who was sitting in a chair with a black salon cape draped over him. The curious look on Lilly's face was quickly replaced with a grin as she grasped Wyatt's arm and hugged it tightly, the two sharing a bond as about a dozen friends and family members watched.

"My head feels lighter," the Palm Bay 10-year-old told News 6 news partner FLORIDA TODAY.

It should. Because this wasn't just a trim. Wyatt, a fifth-grader at Westside Elementary, began growing his hair out after Lilly was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her illness and subsequent hair loss stirred a sense of sympathy in him, inspiring him to grow his locks, lop them off and donate them to Wigs for Kids. The Ohio-based nonprofit provides human hairpieces for about 150 children annually who are stricken with cancer or other conditions that cause hair loss.

On Saturday, Lilly's mom, hairdresser Danielle Worthington, sectioned Wyatt's hair into about 12 ponytails as loved ones cheered him on. Lilly cut the first sampling with clippers as Worthington helped navigate her hands. Applause erupted as emotions ran high.

Mom Brande Martin and dad Chris Robertson were beaming with pride over their son's selfless act — something for which he caught plenty of flak. The family chose to do the donation in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

"He used to be a kid who cared what people thought of him, and this kind of toughened him up in a way," Martin said. "We're super proud of him."

During the year-and-a-half Wyatt was growing out his tresses, he often was mistaken for a girl.

"The adults, it was normally a mistake," Wyatt said. "They would go, ‘Ladies first' at a restaurant."

His brother would have to step in and exclaim, "He's not a lady! He's my brother," Wyatt recalled. (He noted that one perk of disclosing his good deed was scoring free ice cream once.)

Wyatt shared that he was even called a "princess" while at Disney.

"No. 1, I'm not a girl," Wyatt recalled. "No. 2, I wouldn't even want to be called a princess even if I was."

But other kids' actions are what stung the most. One rough patch was vacation Bible school.

"Sometimes, kids made fun of me," said Wyatt, who admits his blond strands were yanked and he was roughed up. "My hair got pulled and glue in it and stuff."

Martin recounted picking Wyatt up and the tears welling in his eyes.

"He was afraid to go to the boys' bathroom," Martin said. "There were some unkind children there. We didn't go back after that day."

Teasing wasn't the only downside.

"It's hot in Florida," Wyatt said. "And the hair doesn't help that at all."

He's hoping his hair donation will be a bright spot in another kid's cancer treatment.

"That might make him happy, and he might get better," he said of his hopes.

Danielle Worthington and husband Steve are in awe of the support of their neighbors, as well as the community.

"We were just so grateful to think he would do that for other children," Danielle said.

Lilly, whom Danielle said is "doing well," is still being treated with chemotherapy.

Wyatt, whose head now feels a lot cooler, said this wasn't a one-time deal.

"From here, I'm going to grow it again," he said.

Mary Loschetter of West Melbourne, who knows the family from Wesley United Methodist Church, choked up while commending Wyatt's act of kindness. She considers him one of her "adoptive grandchildren," she said.

"To see what he went through," she said, her voice quivering. "It's unbelievable. A lot of people make fun of kids who do things like that, and he just took it, and it just didn't bother him. I'm just really proud of him."

At least one other Brevard boy has donated hair despite being taunted for its length. In June, Christian McPhilamy, 8, of Melbourne donated 12-inch ponytails of hair to the nonprofit Children with Hair Loss after seeing a commercial about another organization that accepted human hair donations for children with cancer.