Tristin Wassengeso of Redwood Falls is 10 years old, and this fall he will be a fifth grader at Wabasso Public School.
For Wassengeso there are things that are important in his life, such as hockey, football and playing Fortnite.
Yet, there are other things that have an even greater importance to the son of Blair and Sunny Wassengeso, such as family and his heritage.
As a Native American from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve in Ontario, Canada, Tristin is learning more and more about his culture from his dad.
Among the things he has learned is about the value of having long hair.
So, when Wassengeso was six years old he started growing his hair long.
“It’s part of my culture,” he said, agreeing it is one way he can identify himself as a Native American.
“At first it started as hockey hair,” said his mom.
Then it became more about who he is and his culture.
Then Tristin got the news that his cousin had been diagnosed with cancer. That cousin, who lives in Kansas, is 42, is married and has three sons of his own – about the same age as Tristin.
Being diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroendocrine Carcinoma, Sunny said they have been told the cancer will be with him for the rest of his life. The good news, she added, is that treatments have been able to shrink the cancer offering signs of hope for him and his family.
Those treatments resulted in the loss of his hair.
As a 10-year-old, Wassengeso wanted to do something for his cousin, and he honored him recently by cutting his hair.
The four years of growth was cut off, but it wasn’t merely a show of support. It was going to a good cause. The 14 inches of hair Wassengeso had cut off was donated to Pantene, and that hair will be used to make wigs for people like Wassengeso’s cousin who lose their hair.
Sunny added Tristin is the kind of kid who feels concern for people who need help and cutting his hair is one way he could demonstrate that.
Wassengeso went to Creative Concepts in Redwood Falls where he had his hair cut. It was through that local salon that he learned about Pantene and its program.
Sunny said they chose Pantene simply because they do not charge people for the wigs that are made from donated hair.
Wassengeso said he learned about donating his hair from his grandmother, who had made a similar donation in the past.
Sunny shared they are very proud of Tristin for the sacrifice he has made and expressed words of thanks to Megan Robinson and Creative Concepts for its help in making his plan come to fruition.
Tristin admitted it was kind of hard to cut his hair, but the good news is that it will grow back. When asked Wassengeso said he thinks after his hair grows out he will have it cut and donate it again.
“It makes me happy,” said Tristin when asked what he thought about the donation he made, adding it is good to know someone will not have to “be bald,” because they will have a wig they can wear.