GIBSONTON — He's a musician, motorcycle rider, computer whiz and a bit of a showman.
Add to those talents the ability to grow thick, waist-long hair in only a few years' time and you have Apollo Beach resident Cory Simmons.
Last week, Simmons parlayed his talents into a fundraiser at River's Edge Bar & Grill and invited people to come watch him trade in his tresses for the chance to help children who can't grow their own hair.
"We are raising a lot of money for Locks of Love," Simmons called out from a stage to a crowd of about 100 at the outdoor bar on the Alafia River on Oct. 12. "We're doing a hair-raising event."
In four hours' time, Simmons' hair lift netted $575 for Locks of Love, and six people with hair to spare gave ponytails of at least 10 inches to the South Florida nonprofit organization that provides custom hairpieces to children whose medical conditions keep them from growing their own hair.
As a tribute to his brother, Lowell, who died of cancer in 2011, Simmons had 17 inches of his sun-streaked sandy brown mane sheared and bagged for shipment to Locks of Love. That still left enough for a shoulder-length 'do.
"This is the shortest I've had it in 40 years," Simmons said. "I don't need two pumps of the shampoo anymore."
Before the mane event, Simmons played his acoustic guitar and crooned songs from the 1970s and '80s. Between sets he cut up with the crowd, trying to drive donations higher. Some chipped in $20 in exchange for a hair trim by Lisa Cremeans, part-owner of the bar who also is a professional stylist.
"A lot of people ask me if I'm going military style," Simmons said from the stage. "Everybody's head is shaped different. I have no interest in seeing what my head is shaped like."
Simmons spent about eight years doing computer-related contract work for the U.S. military, including stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. He took a lot of ribbing in that environment of close-cropped coiffures but always kept his long locks, except when making donations to Locks of Love.
His earlier donations followed the death of his mother, Barbara Barnes, also claimed by cancer in 1986. This year's is his third, but Simmons said it's the first time he has tried to raise money to accompany the hair.
Christie Rasmussen, who trims Simmons' hair regularly at A Peaceful Harbor Day Spa in Apollo Beach, said she has bagged Locks of Love donations from customers many times during her 16 years as a stylist. Usually women or girls are the ones who have what Locks of Love is looking for: long, healthy hair that has not been dyed. She said Simmons' natural blond hair made him the ideal candidate.
Others who donated lengths of hair at the fundraiser included Angela Schaefers of Apollo Beach, who said she is a cancer survivor thankful to be alive, and Jason Foster of Ruskin, who said he felt lucky to survive a "kidney failure thing."
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"Giving back in some way is important," Foster said.
Jamie Johnson of Riverview said she knew Simmons through River's Edge.
"I was going to cut my hair in March, and he told me, 'Why don't you save it till October and do Locks of Love with me?' I said, 'Sure thing.' "
Simmons' girlfriend, Deoralynn "Dee" Kettler, said Simmons had had long hair for all the time she has known him. It didn't take long for her to warm up to his new look.
"I love it," Kettler said. "I can be on the back of the motorcycle and not have his ponytail hitting me in the face."
Susan Marschalk Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.