This Boy Grew His Hair For Cancer Patients, But Then He Was Struck By A Terrible Twist Of Fate

Charity can help inspire the most incredible acts of kindness. Indeed, it seems as though there’s nothing that some people won’t do to help others – whether that involves running marathons dressed as Paddington Bear or pushing human limits in some of the planet’s most hostile environments. And even though he may have been just a child, Vinny Desautels put a lot on the line to assist other kids – only for him to be greeted by the most devastating news.

Desautels, from Roseville in California, is a little boy who saw a need and responded to it with selflessness and love. At the age of just five, in fact, he decided to grow out his hair in order to donate it to children suffering from cancer. And, eventually, he possessed locks that would give Rapunzel a run for her money.

Indeed, by March 2016 Vinny had some serious length to his hair. He’d let it grow for two years, and in that time his locks had begun to reach more than a foot from the top of his head. Some of his peers with cancer would not have been lucky enough to have possessed such a mane, however.

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You see, hair loss is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy for cancer. Those who go through the treatment may find that their hair thins or falls out completely all over the body – including their eyelashes and on their legs. And while things will generally return to normal after chemotherapy ceases, some people understandably feel insecure about their appearance when their hair is missing.

Thanks to kind donors such as Vinny, however, real-hair wigs are available to cancer patients. These hairpieces are significantly more costly than synthetic wigs; even so, they have found favor with some because they are thought to look less conspicuous than their man-made counterparts.

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And there are a number of organizations out there that make wigs for children in order to make them feel more like themselves during treatment. Some, such as the U.K.’s Little Princess Trust, even offer the hairpieces without charge. However, most charities of this kind rely on donations of real locks to keep the process going.

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Vinny aspired to be one such donor, too, despite the fact that he stood out with his long hair. And, fortunately, although he was occasionally picked on by strangers, he remained popular with his tutors and fellow pupils. Any criticism Vinny received never put him off what he was doing, either.

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And even when some assumed that Vinny was female, it seemingly didn’t bother him. In 2016 his father, Jason, spoke to Fox40 about the period in which his son had grown his hair, saying, “During that time, he was mistaken for a girl many times. But Vinny took it like a champ and was like, ‘Nah, I’m a boy.’”

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What’s more, Vinny’s strength of character and the bravery he showed when people picked on him made his parents incredibly proud. “I am so proud to call this little man my son,” his mother, Amanda, wrote on Facebook in 2016. “He has been growing out his hair for the past two years. And I had the privilege of being the one to cut it for him.”

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“[Vinny]’s been teased and mistaken for a girl several times, but he stuck with it because he knew it was for a good cause,” Amanda continued. She pointed out in a separate post, though, that there’s nothing wrong with being labeled as a girl; there, Amanda also jokingly explained that Vinny’s dad gets teased far more by his own pals on a daily basis.

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A Facebook page named Victory for Vinny has also been set up to help document the little boy’s journey. It’s popular, too, with more than 16,000 followers to date. And judging by many of the comments found on the page, it seems as though Vinny has a lot of support for his cause.

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One person wrote on Facebook, for example, “Vinny, you have a pure soul. Never change, sweetheart. [You’re] such an inspiration to others, not just kids. Keep that fighting spirit champion.” Another user praised his mother and father, saying, “You all are truly AMAZING parents. In a world where everyone is quick to protect their kids from ‘teasing’ and fan the flames of normal childhood razzing by labeling it bullying, you have chosen to teach your children that teasing is a normal part of life and it never truly goes away. Sounds like Vinny has developed an amazing sense of self-worth.”

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Yet while saying goodbye to the hair that Vinny had lovingly tended for two years could have been a wrench for him, the boy was by all accounts glad for the chop. When a reporter from ABC7 asked Vinny of the occasion, “Were you happy or were you sad?” Vinny replied, simply, “I was happy.”

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Then, once his hair had been cut, Vinny posed for a picture in which he held his freshly trimmed ponytail. But, unfortunately, there turned out to be a much more arduous journey on the horizon for the generous little boy. And it all began when Vinny returned from school with sore knees.

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Vinny’s parents saw a growth on one of his hips, too. Understandably, then, they subsequently took their son to hospital, where doctors identified something growing on Vinny’s pelvic bone. Such lumps are otherwise known as tumors; the type that Vinny had first grow within the bone and form a mass when mutated tissue starts to replace otherwise normal tissue.

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But there was more. Vinny’s eye had started to swell up, with the boy also complaining that the organ felt “heavy.” Jason and Amanda were understandably worried, then, that the cause of the swelling was more serious than an allergy; they considered, too, that all the symptoms their son was experiencing may be related. And in the end, medical professionals discovered that there was another growth in Vinny’s eye as well as ones on his cheek and hip.

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And the implications of the eye tumor weren’t good for Vinny. You see, such growths don’t typically develop out of nowhere; instead, they are usually caused as a result of other tumors in the body. It turned out, then, that Vinny’s swelling was far more serious than a mere allergic reaction.

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Sadly, Vinny was eventually diagnosed with stage four cancer, meaning the disease had spread from its place of origin to other areas in the boy’s body. But in true Vinny style, the awful news didn’t seem to dampen his positive attitude.

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Indeed, it appeared that Vinny was just happy he’d had the opportunity to assist others who also fought the disease. “I want to help people, so they don’t have to go to the doctors to fight cancer,” the boy explained to FOX40.

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Meanwhile, when it came to the specific form of cancer Vinny had, doctors thought that it was likely to be a form of Ewing’s sarcoma. This is an uncommon disease where cancer cells form in bone or soft tissue; symptoms include fever and fatigue as well as swellings and bone pain. Ewing’s sarcoma is also typically diagnosed in people below 20 years of age.

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Meanwhile, when it came to the specific form of cancer Vinny had, doctors thought that it was likely to be a form of Ewing’s sarcoma. This is an uncommon disease where cancer cells form in bone or soft tissue; symptoms include fever and fatigue as well as swellings and bone pain. Ewing’s sarcoma is also typically diagnosed in people below 20 years of age.

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Vinny’s grandparents, Ron and Sue Desautels, rallied behind the youngster as well and set up a GoFundMe page to help him through treatment. On the page, they wrote, “Our precious grandson, Vinny Desautels, is fighting a battle that no child should have to fight: the fight against cancer. Vinny is seven and a half years old and in second grade. He is tender-hearted and so loving.”

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“We have started this GoFundMe account to ease the burden of his parents, Jason and Amanda,” Vinny’s grandparents’ message continued. “Amanda is six months pregnant, and Jason is a combat veteran. Over the next days, weeks, and months ahead, they will need to be at countless doctor appointments, hospital stays and surgeries.”

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Given the many medical check-ups and procedures involved, then, the Desautels would have to spend a lot of money. The GoFundMe campaign therefore had the potential to unburden the family of some financial worries and help them to, as the page explained, “concentrate on Vinny getting well and fighting this wicked disease called cancer.”

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And Sue also took to Facebook to express her grief at her grandson’s misfortune. “We were heartbroken to get this diagnosis,” she wrote. “With that said, I would like to humbly thank everyone for their kind words of encouragement… We are a close family, and we are fighting this together.”

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So far, the GoFundMe page has almost reached its goal. Two and a half years after being set up, it has raised more than $450,000 – a few steps away from the $500,000 finishing line. An incredible 11,126 people have dug into their pockets and donated, too.

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As for Vinny’s progress? Well, he subsequently underwent chemotherapy – and to some success, since as of early 2019 the boy is cancer-free. In fact, he appears to have beaten the disease some time ago; in May 2018 the Desautels celebrated Vinny reaching nearly 18 months of having “NED” – or “No Evidence of Disease.”

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And for Vinny’s ninth birthday, his family paid tribute to the boy on Facebook. “Happy ninth birthday to our little hero!” they wrote. “We are so proud of the young man Vinny is becoming. He’s experienced more in his nine years on this Earth than most people will in their whole life. We definitely will be celebrating that he is turning another year older.”

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Vinny’s birthday message was followed by well-wishes from his many supporters, too. One such individual wrote, for instance, “Someone with such a big heart and strong spirit deserves all the happiness in the world! Hope you had a great birthday.”

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It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Vinny and his recovery, however. And the Victory For Vinny Facebook page would address the situation in a post that read, “Knowing that Vinny still remains cancer free is HUGE, but now we are crossing paths of complications that can arise due to the aftermath of treatment.”

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Specifically, it turned out that the discomfort in Vinny’s leg had returned. “He has been having pain to his right knee after extensive use, so Vinny had an X-ray today to rule out/figure out what’s going on,” the Facebook post continued. “We are still waiting on those results. Basically at this point, Vinny needs to let his body tell him what he is and what he isn’t capable of.”

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Regardless of the threat of any relapses, however, Vinny has thrived and reached some major milestones in his young life. In June 2018, for example, he had his last day at his old school, after which he entered fifth grade at Quail Glen Elementary in Roseville. Perhaps in a further bid to help others, he also signed up to be class treasurer.

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And this Facebook update once again appeared to have been welcomed with open arms. One reader joked, “Have a fun school year, Vinny. And you definitely got my vote for treasurer.” Another said, commenting on the accompanying photos of the youngster, “Look at that hair! And that shirt!! Looking awesome, Vinny!!”

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Plus, it appears that Vinny’s hair is growing once more; in the photos of the boy that commemorate his first day of fifth grade, he is seen sporting dark locks that almost touch his shoulders. Whether he’s planning on donating this hair, too, or will be keeping it to himself this time is unknown, however.

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And it isn’t just Vinny who has been performing acts of kindness for patients, as a selfless gesture made in February 2017 demonstrates. The generous deed in question took place at The Christie hospital in Manchester, England, and involved a large number of snacks.

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According to a 2017 report by The Daily Telegraph, a note had been taped to the glass front of a vending machine at the facility. That message read, “Please find a variety of snacks in the bottom of this machine that have been paid for. I simply wanted to perform some random act of kindness to try and brighten up someone’s day.”

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“Hopefully there will be something in there for you to enjoy,” the message from the kind stranger continued. “Finally, if you can, try and spread the kindness.” But while the secret snack-giver was never identified, that didn’t seem to matter. People were still touched by the gesture, as Lauren Hunstone, a healthcare assistant at the hospital, would explain.

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“The bottom of the vending machine was absolutely full of chocolate, crisps, cereal bars and snacks,” Hunstone said to The Daily Telegraph. “It really perked up everyone’s day to realize that someone had randomly done something so lovely and kind out of the goodness of their heart and not wanting to take any thanks.”

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Hunstone made clear her gratitude, too, by adding, “[The gesture] made all the nurses on our ward feel so happy, and we were all beaming for the rest of the day. To whoever did this amazing random act of kindness, I’d like to say a huge thank you.”

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Indeed, it’s always comforting to know that there are individuals out there who are as selflessly kind as Vinny and the mystery snack savior without expecting anything in return. And maybe the two have have something in common – long hair, perhaps? It seems we’ll never know.

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