Tears, shrieks and cheers escorted locks of every color of hair cascading to the gym floor during Friday’s Bald 4 Bucks fundraiser at Rampart High School.
“Having a lot of hair and having it being shaved and seeing everyone come together who’s shaved their heads is a really emotional experience,” said junior Quentin Beck.
The 16-year-old Rampart student has participated in the fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society every year since he was 11, when he decided to join his older sister in what’s become a defining moment in the lives of many students.
“To bring people that you don’t know together and create a whole community for a good cause is really impactful,” Quentin said, as he braced for shedding his nose-length hair, which he estimates will take up to five months to grow back.
About 360 students, staff and family members from seven schools in Academy School District 20 signed up to sport a cue-ball look — or cut their hair to donate for wigs for children with cancer.
“It feels so soft,” said 10th-grader Alysa Mellars, rubbing her scalp as her long red hair fluttered around her feet. “It was so weird — it felt cold, but at the same time, it felt really good.”
Her mom, Michelle Mellars, cried as she recorded the shearing that was over in just a few minutes.
“I hate to see her beautiful hair gone, but I’m very proud of her supporting a great cause,” Michelle said. “She’s got a big heart.”
Students started raising money in January, toting donation buckets around school, their neighborhoods and family functions.
Schoolwide fundraisers included a dodgeball tournament, a movie night, performing arts productions, seven corporate sponsorships and an online public appeal that's available through March at https://events.lls.org/pages/rm/RampartHighSchool-2019.
And a Bald 4 Bucks 5K eace starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at the school, 2845 Parliament Drive. Participation is donation-based, and no registration is required.
The highlight of the annual drive was Friday’s massive assembly, at which a local “hero child,” 11-year-old Maddie Kirk, who’s battling leukemia and lymphoma, was honored.
Maddie’s gut-wrenching story started when she was first diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and after agonizing treatment was declared cancer free. Last January, the cancer returned, leading to 105 days in a hospital bed.
Her sister, Rachyl, called her little sister an inspiration while describing the family's painful journey.
“Maddie is the bravest, strongest 11-year-old I know,” Rachyl said.
Going under the razor together was a way for participants young and old to show their empathy.
As Student Body President Brendan Flewelling said, “It’s not what I look like, it’s what I do."
The event started to benefit a beloved, dedicated English teacher who had cancer four times.
After she was advised by doctors to make time for her family, the Rampart community raised money to help send her family on a trip, said Greg Andersen, a math teacher who has been working on the tradition since the beginning.
“She passed away, and when her oldest son was a senior, he asked if we could bring back the assembly to benefit others,” Andersen said. “So it’s come full circle.”
And it’s come to be known as Rampart’s signature contribution to the world, one that lives on in the hearts and minds of graduates and current students alike.
"My grandpa died of leukemia, so I wanted to help as much as I can," said sophomore Antigone Dodge, who made 300 crocheted and knitted hats for people who had their heads shaved.
The Bald 4 Bucks assembly is the only time 8-year-old Adam Juhl gets his hair cut, said his mom, Niki Juhl.
Adam, a third-grader at High Plains Elementary School, has been involved for the past three years.
“He grows it out for 365 days and loves this event," his mom said. "He's very proud to be part of it."
Rampart’s Bald 4 Bucks has become so successful that Rampart broke the national record last year in raising more than $100,000 for the event that’s part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients campaign in schools.
For the past two years, Rampart has been the top fundraiser of 7,000 schools nationwide, Andersen said.
“The main reason for our success is everybody feels like they own the assembly,” Andersen said. “It’s very grassroots and community-based.”
Not including this year, Rampart has donated $354,463, with $21,000 going to local families impacted by leukemia and lymphoma, which are cancers of the blood. Donations fund patient and community services, research, public health and professional education, according to the society’s website.
Rampart’s contributions have funded 14 research grants, according to fundraising Chairman James Goering.
This year’s goal is to surpass last year’s record, he said. Final tallies won't be known until April.
“But our main goal is to cultivate the culture of giving,” James said. “Rampart is helping win the global fight against cancer.”