Created: 05/06/2014 11:01 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- An Austin High School senior recently donated his long locks to help make wigs for cancer patients, but he said he's missing much more than just his hair.
Over the last 11 years, Cole Peterson has cut and donated his hair two other times.
With years of growth in between, he said many at Austin High School know him simply by his hair.
That’s why he recently wrote an open letter in the school's paper to explain why his hair is much more than a fashion statement.
"I am asking you to listen to my story, for it is not my story at all,” Peterson wrote in his article. “It is for a dear friend who has impacted my life."
Peterson met a young girl named Brooke Jones-Landowski shortly after moving to Austin when he was ten years old.
"I cared for her. She was one of my best friends," Peterson said.
But Brooke was frequently absent from school.
The summer after fifth grade, Peterson ran into Brooke at the county fair, but didn't recognize her because her long hair had been replaced by a wig.
"Brooke described her difficult struggle with brain tumors during the school year, having undergone a surgical procedure the summer prior to fifth grade only to find out the tumors had come back more aggressively the following spring," Peterson wrote.
Unbeknownst to Peterson, that would be the last time he saw his best friend alive.
Brooke passed away shortly after her 12th birthday, and Peterson decided to grow his hair from then on as a tribute to his friend.
"It's how I coped with the death, just growing my hair out,” Peterson said. “I guess you could say she was like a part of me."
Peterson closed his article with the following passage:
I will cut my hair, but I will never forget my best friend. She is and will always be a huge part of me. Her passing made me realize many things at a very a young age.
This story explains the reason I’ve become the young man I am today. I choose to LIVE life, not to fear it. To have as much fun as possible and to inspire and uplift those around me, because I never know when it will be the last time I will see someone again. I treasure all the memories made here at AHS! Thank you for a great four years!
Peterson said he has kept in touch with Brooke's family over the years, even visiting with her grandparents before his senior prom.
For this, his third donation, Peterson gave around 20 inches of hair, saying he feels Brooke would be happy he was able to help others in need.