“When we asked the school if they would let us put this on here they jumped on board immediately,” said Patty Furco. “It’s an undertaking to support Abby and other kids with cancer and to help raise awareness and funds, and they were excited to just help.”
Abby is Patty’s 11-year-old daughter, who is a two-time cancer survivor and Princess Anne Middle School (PAMS) sixth-grader. And the event that PAMS teachers, students, parents and community members were excited to host was a St. Baldrick’s Bash held Friday, April 20.
“What you’re doing raising money – it’s saving lives. It saved my daughter’s life,” Patty told the crowd in her opening remarks.
Held nationwide to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, each “bash” features volunteers who agree to have their heads shaved to help raise both awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. In addition to fundraising by individual participants, PAMS collected additional funds through a coin competition among all core teams, which raised $3,330, and donations to participate in a schoolwide Hat Day. An admission fee for the St. Baldrick’s Bash and bake sale at the event added to the funds collected for the foundation.
“I can’t believe we’ve raised over $20,000 and that’s right now,” said Abby, smiling as people streamed into the gym for the afterschool event. “I’ve heard there are going to be a lot of kids here so we’re going to probably raise a lot more money, and I think it’s great that the kids are willing to help out and support this.”
They supported with their time, their money and – for the main event – their hair.
“We have 24 shavees. They’ll go up four at a time and most of them are going completely bald,” Patty explained. “It’s a big commitment. They’re going to go out and they’re going to be bald, and people are going to say, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ Then they can spread the word – especially our girls.”
The females who participated included: PAMS seventh-grader Abby Turner, PAMS PTA President Christine Sullivan, Arrowhead Elementary third-grader teacher Haylie Heard, and Thalia Elementary fifth-grader Natalie Halstead.
Turner opted for a pixie cut, explaining before the event, “I’m not that brave.”
“You almost were. You debated it,” corrected her mother. “I think it’s fabulous. She signed up for it on her own and I’m proud of her.”
Turner’s younger sister, Zoey, was proud of her, too. So proud that Zoey decided at the event that she wanted to participate, getting her long hair cut into a short bob. Turner held her sister’s hand on stage for support.
“I like it,” Turner said of her own new haircut. “And I’m happy that I actually got to help.”
PAMS sixth-grader Andy Borst also wanted to help and support a friend.
“I’m friends with Abby [Furco] and she goes to my church,” he said. “I felt like I should do it out of respect for her.”
Fifth-grader Halstead said she became interested in participating after seeing the T-shirt a previous shavee was wearing. “I looked it up and I wanted to do it.”
She raised $2,065 for the PAMS event and had a large crowd of family and friends in the gymnasium cheering for her.
Admitting to being a little nervous before, Halstead was happy with the experience and her new, very short hairstyle. “It doesn’t make a difference because I’m still myself,” she said.
That’s a lesson Heard hopes her 4-year-old daughter and her Arrowhead third-graders will learn by seeing her participate in the St. Baldrick’s Bash. “It’s a double win,” Heard said of the teaching moment and raising money for a good cause. She raised more than $1,600.
Heard’s daughter, however, was not pleased with the head-shaving decision, even after her parents’ explanation the night before.
“We told her that you join in with the kids because sometimes, when they’re really, really sick, they lose their hair with the treatment. She gets it a little bit more now, but hair is still pretty to her and she’s worried that I’m not going to have it,” said Heard before the event.
In the crowd to watch her mom, Heard eventually brought her crying daughter on stage to wipe her tears.
“As soon as she got up with me, I reminded her again of why we’re doing it. It definitely helped,” Heard said after, adding about her haircut, “It feels good. My head feels a lot lighter.”
Less hair is what a few male PAMS teachers and administrators joked they did not need as they waited for their turns on stage. Students were excited to see Jamie Arnett, Peter Ayala, Hunter Dunlo, Ian Jewell, Zachary Bucholz and Alex Bergren get their heads shaved. Jewell only shaved his beard, after a vote based on student donations was for the beard to go.
Arnett, who also encouraged students to donate money, let two students step in for the professional stylists volunteering their time and services – Ashley Russo, Honey Kidd, Susan Evans, Sonya Arrington and Patrick Reid were there from Rudy and Kelly Hairstylists, along with independent stylists Doug Lane and Georgia Huber.
Bergren, the school’s principal, was the last participant in the chair and was recognized as the top fundraiser – narrowly beating Sullivan. Each raised more than $3,100.
Abby had the honor of taking the first snips of Bergren’s hair, which he styled into a mohawk for the special occasion.
“It’s been an amazing response and I’m really proud of the kids,” said Bergren. “We set our goal at $10,000 and we’re going to pass $25,000. It’s incredible. It’s been a really awesome community effort.”
Individuals can still donate to the school’s St. Baldrick’s Bash by visiting the online fundraising page. To view more photos from the PAMS event, visit the VBSchools Facebook page.