It is particularly difficult to feel confident in your own skin, especially when you know that you look different from most people. You walk out of the house, completely worried that someone would notice what’s unusual about you. You are afraid of the stares and mockery that you might receive from people who don’t understand why you are the way you are.
This is exactly what third-grader Luke Nelson felt when he suddenly lost all of his hair.
In November of last year, Luke was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to fall out. It began last fall when a small patch of his hair vanished from his eyebrow. Within a matter of eight weeks, it moved to the side of his head. By December, he had gone completely bald. This left Luke devastated, who worried about how his friends and family would react once they saw him.
“It was very hard for me,” Luke said. “I was afraid of being different.”
For weeks, Luke rarely left the house without wearing a baseball cap, but after a while, the hiding became tedious for him.
“For a little 8-year-old boy to lose his hair, of course, it was hard and it was very difficult,” Luke’s mother, 40-year-old Susan Nelson, tells PEOPLE. “Once he lost all of his hair he immediately put a hat on and he kind of hid behind his hat.”
According to Susan, when they realized that they needed to shave Luke’s head, his little brother Sam said, “Well, if Luke’s not gonna have hair, I’m not gonna have hair either.” In a show of support for Luke, Sam immediately shaved his head and soon after, their dad also shaved his.
But it was not only Luke’s family who thought of joining him with his new look. Sixteen of his classmates at Oklahoma Christian School in Edmond felt doing the same, so everyone volunteered to shave their heads!
“They really asked the questions like what could we do to really help Luke and make him happy. Once [Luke] found out that all of his buddies wanted to surround him like a band of brothers and shave their heads as well he just embraced it.”
On January 19, the boys went with their parents to Sports Clips Haircuts to have their heads shaved.
Everyone was in good spirits as they went to the barbershop, and it seemed like all the boys enjoyed the process, knowing in their heart that they are doing this for the sake of their friend who was in need of support during this tough time.
“He’s one of our friends and he’s hurting so we need to help him,” said Luke’s friend, Clayton Sargent.
According to Susan, their visit to the barbershop turned into a hair-shaving celebration. There was a lot of laughter and the kids were giving each other high fives. As soon as the haircuts were over, Luke took off his cap and walked around with his newfound confidence!
Luke says that knowing that his friends have his back means the world to him. Now, he is not ashamed of his baldness, and his appreciation for his buddies just went up a notch. Aware that other kids are also going through the same ordeal as him, he says that he wants the world to know his story.
“It made me feel very good,” Luke says. “I feel more confident. I can just be myself. I think it’s important to share my story to help all those other kids that feel different.”
As for his friends, they are all just happy that they were able to help Luke in their own little ways.
“I’m really glad we did it just to help Luke and give him some self-confidence,” said Luke’s friend, Walt Free.
What an incredible show of support from these group of kids! The selflessness that these kids exhibited is truly inspiring. It is amazing to know that despite their young age, they already know the value of compassion and true friendship.
Watch this video from NBC News to learn more about Luke’s story.