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Hair-razing event raises funds to fight childhood cancer

St. Christopher School Principal Joyce Needham laughs while showing off her new "do." Stylist Anthony Wells and Paige Snyder look on. (West Life photo by Sue Botos)

 

Rocky River

By Sue Botos

Fans of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” may be familiar with the chant “Move that bus!” which caps off each show. But at St. Christopher School on Friday, students, staff and guests roared “Shave that head!” as 29 students and three adults, including Principal Joyce Needham, had their locks shorn as part of a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser for childhood cancer.

This was the first year St. Christopher hosted an event for the St. Baldrick Foundation, which supports research to find cures for childhood cancers. The entire school body, attired in their best St. Paddy’s green, turned out in the school’s multipurpose room to support schoolmates Paige Snyder (grade 6) and Alexis Haylor (grade 2) who are in remission, and Shane Haddad (grade 1), who is battling brain cancer .

Since hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, the head shaving shows solidarity with those who have undergone the treatment.

Before going under the shears of stylists from Ichiban Salon and Day Spa in Westlake, Needham announced that in less than a month, her school raised $22,700 for St. Baldrick’s, more than quadrupling her goal of $5,000. She said that the junior class of St. Edward High School, led by some St. Chris graduates, held its own head-shaving party, contributing $4,500.

“The whole idea is that bald is beautiful,” explained Julie Haylor, who added that her daughter Alexis, 8, is about to celebrate her fifth year in remission. Coincidentally, the family lives on the same street as the Haddads, and she said that Shane, 7, and Alexis have formed a special bond due to their experiences. “Shane would wait for Alexis when she couldn’t keep up with the other kids playing,” said Haddad, adding that when Shane was diagnosed, Alexis then waited with him.

“I see some moments that give me the shivers,” she recalled, adding, with a smile, “We’re hoping for a prom date one day.”

Even when Shane, whose wheelchair was surrounded by friends today, can’t attend school, his classmates keep him present by putting a teddy bear in his seat, according to the Rev. Timothy Daw of St. Christopher’s.

Haylor, along with Amy Haddad, praised Needham for her support during their children’s illnesses. Haddad said that Shane was diagnosed three years ago when her oldest child was in kindergarten. “Joyce has been through it with us the whole way,” she said.

The first Cleveland-area St. Baldrick’s event took place at AJ Rocco’s in Cleveland, and Haylor said that various “splinter groups” have formed – including the one created by the Haylor and Haddad families. (The two families also hosted a shave-a-thon at the Rocky River Brewing Co., which was attended by St. Baldrick CEO Kathleen Ruddy.)

Events got under way at St. Chris when the “shavees” trooped in, then in groups of six, took seats on the stage for their buzz cuts. Asked why her son A.J. decided to go bald, Katie Fletcher responded, “He felt it was the least we could do,” adding the A.J. was doing it for his buddy Shane.

Before taking the stage, Brett Mallet asked a visitor for a pen, then quickly wrote Shane’s, Alexis’ and Paige’s names on his arms. Owen Adler’s longer locks posed an extra challenge to the stylists. Between groups, St. Christopher’s Irish dancers performed, and even Pastor John Chlebo participated in a round of the “Chicken Dance.”

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived, when Needham ascended the stage steps, accompanied by Paige and Alexis, with the last group. As her dark shoulder-length hair fell, Needham laughed and joked. A few students offered to do her barbering.

Sporting her new “do,” Needham posed for pictures. “I don’t even notice that it’s not there,” she said, rubbing her scalp.

 

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