Letting Their Hair Down for Charity

In an effort to donate to Children With Hair Loss, Tampa Electric SPP Field Construction Supervisor Brandon Roe and his son Brandon II grew out their hair for more than three years.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a variety of challenges our way. From preventing the spread of a deadly disease to remaining motivated to overcoming the social challenges of connecting with loved ones, the struggle was certainly real. But in the whirlwind of March 2020, Tampa Electric Storm Protection Program (SPP) Field Construction Supervisor Brandon Roe found a unique way to create a lifelong connection with his son, Brandon II – they both let their hair down, literally.

“My son was a sophomore at George Jenkins High,” explained Brandon. “With schools and barber shops closed, he asked me if I wanted to grow out my hair with him. Of course, I agreed.”

It didn’t take long for Brandon II to devise a plan that would turn this memorable experience into something that would benefit others. You see, Brandon II is a true fighter. He was born four weeks prematurely, weighing a little over four pounds. He had open-heart surgery when he was only 12 weeks old. Turning a negative into a positive is simply part of Brandon II’s character.

“He decided we would donate our hair to Children With Hair Loss, a nonprofit organization that gifts hair replacements, hair care kits and hair loss education to children up to age 21,” said Brandon. “My wife’s great grandmother had breast cancer, so we figured we could donate our hair in her memory.” 

And, so, at 40 years old, Brandon began growing his hair out for the very first time.

With a goal of growing their hair out to at least 9 ½ inches long, Brandon gained a new perspective during this time – not only with the care and maintenance required, but also with how one is perceived when they have long hair.

“I recalled a course I took as part of our ongoing TECO education about unconscious bias,” said Brandon. “I learned about it several years ago, but never really lived it until I started growing out my hair.”

Admittedly looking like Tom Hanks during Forrest Gump’s long run across the country, Brandon found his new look to create unforeseen challenges. “Some gas stations would deny me access to the restroom. People would take one look at me and react in a standoffish way – as if I was a threat. Little did they know, I looked like this so that I could help people.”

Instead of taking it personal, Brandon used these experiences as a teachable moment for his son. The lesson? “Don’t judge people by their appearance and treat everyone equally,” said Brandon. “Their looks don’t hurt their quality of character or quality of work – we are all still human.”

In July of 2023, after more than three years of commitment to their mission, Brandon and his son decided it was time for their big haircut. So, off they went – together, of course. “Not only did I become more aware of my own unconscious bias, but it made me feel good to know this donation would improve someone’s life and make their day brighter in some way,” said Brandon.

When all was said and done, Brandon’s ponytail was 10 inches long and Brandon II’s was an entire foot long!

Despite the trying times during the peak of the pandemic, Brandon and his son were clearly able to create unique memories while giving back to our community.

"You don’t get many chances to experience something like this with your child,” said Brandon. “Comparing hair length and styling it together brought us closer together. There weren’t too many ways for us to connect during the pandemic, but this helped us bond and I’m so glad that I did this with him.”

Brandon’s message is simple. “Get out and do something,” he said. “You never know how much will come back to you just by volunteering or doing something nice for someone else.

As a recent graduate, Brandon II intends to start the aerospace program at Polk State College to become a professional pilot. No doubt, the sky’s the limit for his future.

Brandon and his son donated their hair in memory of a loved one who had breast cancer.