Charlie Wilson has gone to great lengths to help a friend. More accurately, he has grown to great lengths and endured bullying, teasing and taunts to honor a friend with cancer. Charlie’s inspiration to action was his friend, Libby Serber, a first-grade classmate in Dallas who was diagnosed in 2012 with a Wilms tumor and cancer. Libby missed much of the school year undergoing chemotherapy but returned the next — thinner, weaker and without her beautiful red curls.
“I felt devastated that she had cancer,” Charlie says, “and I wanted to do something helpful.” Charlie’s inspiration for a solution was his mom, Alicia. She had grown, cut, then donated her hair three times to Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
He stopped cutting his hair early in 2014, which went relatively unnoticed by his classmates and hockey teammates for the first few months. As his bangs grew beyond his eyes and his hair inched towards his shoulders, though, he heard classmates and opponents taunt, “Here comes the girl.” At times, even his teammates left him to practice alone.
“My husband and I told him, ‘We know you want to do this in honor of Libby, but if the bullying is getting to you, you can cut your hair,’” Alicia says. Charlie repeatedly issued a quiet no. “I just decided if she could go through the cancer treatment, I could do this.”
Among the assistant coaches on Charlie’s team was Bob Bassen, a former Blue who works as the director of alumni for the Dallas Stars. Bassen relayed the story of Charlie’s quest to honor Libby to members of the team’s foundation, who decided that Charlie deserved a pat on the back. Almost two years after he started growing his hair, the team invited Charlie and Libby to a practice. They visited the locker room, where forward Tyler Seguin ordered Charlie to “hop up in the hot seat,” a chair in the middle of the room. Captain Jamie Benn introduced Charlie and Libby and shared their story with the rest of the Stars. “I think we can all learn from Charlie as a loyal friend and teammate,” Benn told the team.
Seguin, Benn and forward Patrick Sharp then did the honors of cutting Charlie’s hair, after which he spent the rest of the day chatting up his heroes on the ice. “I remember thinking, ‘Am I dreaming?’” Charlie says. “It was so awesome.” The Stars produced a video of the visit, which they played at several games last season. Charlie attended one of those games, after which fans wanted their picture taken with him.
Today, Libby is “perfectly healthy,” according to her mom, Cara. Charlie continues to play hockey and is growing his hair again because, “there’s always another person to help in the world. And it’s just one more year.”
“To see what a nice boy he continues to be is really touching,” Cara says. “That a child could be so young with so much compassion really strikes a chord.” Which could explain why this time around, there’s no bullying or teasing. “I guess they know now,” he says, “that I’m doing something good.”