Eight-year-old Luke Nelson's classmates shaved their heads to support him after he was diagnosed with alopecia
Credit: Courtesy Susan Nelson

Eight-year-old Luke Nelson, of Edmond, Oklahoma, rarely left the house without a hat after losing his hair due to alopecia late last year. But a supportive gesture from his classmates has given the third-grader all the strength he needs to boldly rock his new look.

“For a little 8-year-old boy to lose his hair, of course, it was hard and it was very difficult,” Luke’s mother, 40-year-old Susan Nelson, tells PEOPLE. “Once he lost all of his hair he immediately put a hat on and he kind of hid behind his hat.”

It began last fall when just a small patch of hair vanished from his eyebrow.

“Within a matter of eight weeks it moved to the side of his head. By Christmas time he has completely lost all of his hair,” Susan, also mother of Sam, 7, and 11-year-old Rhett Nelson, says.

Credit: Courtesy Susan Nelson

“When we realized we needed to shave his head because he had lost all of his hair, his little brother Sam said, ‘Well, if Luke’s not gonna have hair, I’m not gonna have hair either. He immediately shaved his head. Then my husband shaved his head. So we made it a family affair.”

Luke’s classmates at Oklahoma Christian School in Edmond felt the same. The 14 third graders put their heads together to come up with a way to lift Luke’s spirits.

“By the time we got back to school after winter break all of Luke’s buddies really wanted to do something to show their support,” Susan says.

Luke Nelson (center) with classmates
| Credit: Courtesy Susan Nelson

“They really asked the questions like what could we do to really help Luke and make him happy. Once [Luke] found out that all of his buddies wanted to surround him like a band of brothers and shave their heads as well he just embraced it.”

On Jan. 19, the boys gathered along with their parents and Luke’s family at Sports Clips Haircuts in Edmond where they all had their heads shaved.

“We just made it a really fun hair-shaving celebration and we had donuts!” Susan gushes. “There was belly laughter, and kids were giving each other high fives. As soon as the haircuts started Luke ripped off his hat and he has walked around with this confidence and this swagger.”

The gesture was “life-changing” for Luke, the proud mom says.

“It’s made him really proud. If anything, he’s that he’s been given this gift and he can look at it as a gift or he can look at it as an obstacle. He’s chosen to look at it as a gift and to overcome it and, hair, if he has it or not, that’s not going to define who this kid is. He is a strong kid.”

As for Luke, he says he’s still on cloud nine as a result of his friends’ good deed. And he tells PEOPLE he’s happy to be able to share his journey with children like him, who may have alopecia or hair loss.

“It made me feel very good,” Luke says. “I feel more confident. I can just be myself. I think it’s important to share my story to help all those other kids that feel different.”