After her first ponytail got scissored, Olesia Clarke, 5, broke out into a huge smile. (Photo: Elizabeth Clarke)
It’s been almost three years since Olesia Clarke’s dad, Kyle, passed away after a 17-month battle with brain cancer. Yet this spirited 5-year-old from Milwaukee still recalls bits and pieces about the father who adored her.
“She remembers he was a funny guy, a jokester, and Olesia is a jokester too,” mom Elizabeth Clarke tells Yahoo Parenting. “She also remembers taking walks with him and him reading to her when he was being treated at the hospital, which was very special for her.”
Inspired by her warm memories of her dad and her desire to help others who are also fighting cancer, Olesia made an empathetic decision this summer concerning how to celebrate her fifth birthday party.
Olesia went from butt-length to bob at her fifth birthday party. (Photo: Elizabeth Clarke)
Instead of having a traditional party, Olesia wanted to cut her long, thick red hair and donate it to a children’s cancer organization. “A friend of hers at school did this, and I thought it was a great idea,” says Elizabeth.
Then, at the suggestion of her mom, she also requested that her party guests forgo bringing her gifts and instead give a donation to the Aurora Health Care Foundation, a fund run by Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, the hospital where her dad had surgery and chemotherapy.
“When we talked about what she wanted for her party, she said, ‘I want to help people like my daddy,’” says Elizabeth.
So on July 18, instead of a big backyard bash with a princess or superhero theme, Olesia was visited by a friend of her mom who is a hair stylist, and bravely had her long, thick locks scissored off.
Olesia with her dad, Kyle, before he passed away from brain cancer. (Photo: Elizabeth Clarke.)
“She was so excited, and as soon as her ponytail was chopped, she had the biggest smile on her face,” recounts Elizabeth. Her hair went to an organization called Wigs for Kids, which helps children who have lost their hair after cancer treatment.
The $1,000 in donations her party guests gave went specifically to the hospital’s neuro-oncology center. “We appreciated the care we received there, and the hospital became kind of a second home for us,” says Elizabeth.
Now, almost a month after she sheared off her long locks, Olesia plans to do it all over again for her 6th birthday party next July. She’s also inspired her cousins to donate their hair as well.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” says Elizabeth. “She remembers what she went through when [her dad died] and has translated that into doing good for others.”