On a cool Wednesday afternoon, in the minutes just before lunch, a dozen OVS community members gathered at the Upper Campus to make a great sacrifice: their hair.
Students Ethan Chen (L19), Thomas Christopher (L16), Justin Huang, Brody Moller, Adam Pepper-Macias (L17), Mark Pindur, Andrew Thacher (L17), Sebastian Wayman-Dalo (L16), Logan Wallace (L19), and Gabe Weisiger (L17) all shaved their heads to raise money for and awareness of Pediatric Cancer Research.
Their big-heartedness then inspired Upper Campus ceramics teacher Jody Cooper to shave her head as well.
“I wasn’t planning on shaving my head,” Mrs. Cooper said. “But it’s a great cause and I wanted to support the guys who were doing it.”
The movement all started with OVS seventh grader Jake Larkin and his Shave for a Cure campaign. When Jake was just five years old, he was diagnosed with Very Severe Aplastic Anemia (VSAA), a bone marrow failure disease which is life threatening and extremely hard to cure.
Aplastic Anemia is not a cancer, but Jake’s treatment included many of the protocols and medications developed for pediatric leukemia treatment.
After a two-year battle, Jake was cured through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. And since then, as a proud survivor, he has been determined to give back. With the help from his family and friends, Jake’s campaign has raised nearly $7,000, chopping off his hair each year to generate contributions for the cause.
This year, Jake asked OVS junior Adam Pepper-Macias if he would shave his head to support Jake’s fundraiser. Little did he know that Adam and ten other high school boys would end up shaving their heads as well
“Jake approached me and initially it was just going to be me,” Adam explained. “But I thought there might be some people at school who would be interested, so I started texting.”
To his surprise and delight, the affirmative texts kept rolling in.
“I wasn’t expecting the response that I got,” Adam said. “It was honestly inspiring.”
The inspiration continued the next day at Lower Campus. Ten of the boys who shaved their heads Wednesday took a trip to Lower, where they were honored for their sacrifice in front of the school while Jake’s mom, Kimberly Cluff, showed a video and explained the goal of their fundraiser.
Just like Mrs. Cooper, three faculty members stepped up and shaved for a cure.
Lower Campus Head of School Gary Gartrell, Assistant Head of School Mike Mahon, and math teacher Duncan Wallace said farewell to their hair at Thursday morning’s all-school assembly.
“It’s a great cause and I’m happy to participate with my students,” Mr. Mahon said. “Anyone can donate money, anyone can participate in certain ways, but when you participate in a way that you have to live with for months at a time, I think that shows a lot more commitment and it will probably inspire a lot more than a simple donation.”
And then all eyes shifted to Jake Larkin, the boy who started it all.
His sister, OVS sophomore CatieJo Larkin (L18) began to put his shoulder length hair in ponytails to chop off, but instead of taking the scissors directly to his hair, she handed them to Adam to cut off the first ponytail.
“It was really inspiring to see all of the other boys cutting off ponytails because you can just see how Jake influenced all of them,” Adam said. “I was certainly honored that I got to cut off a ponytail.”
The remaining ponytails were cut off by the high school boys who shaved their heads in support the previous day.
On top of cutting one of Jake’s ponytails, freshman Logan Wallace took advantage of the opportunity to shave his father’s head, employing a set of clippers to leave only a shadow of hair on Mr. Wallace’s head.
“I wasn’t planning on shaving my head but I was inspired by the high school guys who jumped in and supported the cause,” Mr. Wallace said. “I’m proud of my son and happy to support a good cause.”
Thanks to the help, hair, and support of many, the Shave for a Cure fundraiser has raised nearly $7,000 for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Inc., which distributes money to organizations battling childhood cancer.
“We shave heads to raise awareness about these childhood illnesses, show support and camaraderie with kids that are sick and to raise money for the MAAC Fund,” Jake’s mom said.
To learn more about the MAAC Fund, visit www.maccfund.org. To donate to Jake’s fundraising efforts, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/jake-shaves-his-head-for-a-cure