HEBRON — Maxwell Asa Middleton walked with 63 fellow Hebron Academy classmates into the Athletic Center for commencement wearing a pink turban.

Decorated with breast cancer ribbons, the turban had a twofold purpose.

The unusual headgear hid the fact that the young Hebron man with the wild and unruly hair since middle school had it cut last Saturday morning to accentuate his graduation speech about accepting change.

His long locks were removed “about two hours before graduation, so it was a surprise to everybody,” the 17-year-old said early Wednesday evening.

Many in the audience and classmates reacted with disbelief and gasps, then erupted in laughter when Max matter-of-factly said, “Well, I got a haircut this morning.”

The second reason for the pink head covering was Max donated his locks to the American Cancer Society’s Beautiful Lengths program.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths partners with the society to give free, real-hair wigs to cancer patients, its website states.

Additionally, the turban belonged to Max’s mom, Julie Middleton, a breast cancer survivor.

South Paris hair stylist Sabrina Kennison of Hot Colors and Hebron Academy senior Dong Hee Lee, the 2012 class vice president, cut Max’s hair, Julie Middleton said Thursday.

“Max had in mind this hair-cutting speech idea to connect with the speech he gave at the beginning of the year, for a long time,” Julie Middleton, the senior associate director of admission at Hebron Academy, said. “But it was talking with Sabrina that gave us the idea that his hair might just be long enough to donate. What a huge bonus that was, because we’ve had a lot of breast cancer in Max’s family and he is always making a statement.”

Julie said her mother, artist and activist Emily Reeve, passed away from breast cancer seven years ago.

Max’s paternal grandmother, Jean Middleton, a breast cancer survivor, watched Max graduate, she said.

“One year ago, almost to the day, on the day before graduation, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and I am a survivor, too!” Julie Middleton said.

“That’s why I wore the pink turban,” Max Middleton said. “It wasn’t just to be silly.”

“My hair has been very, very long since I was in middle school, so it was kind of petrifying at first — really, really scary,” Max said. “But when I got up to the podium without my hair and saw people’s reactions, it was worth it. It was awesome. It was everything I wanted it to be.”

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