Reynoldsburg News

Fundraising challenge

Students, teachers promise to shave their heads


Going bald after chemotherapy is a sad reality for too many cancer patients, but three Reynoldsburg teachers and eight HS2 Academy juniors are willing to shave their heads at a public event if the community will help raise $6,000 to combat childhood cancer.

The teachers are Jennifer Druggan, Anthony Smith and Christina Grady-Watts, who all teach at HS2 Academy.

The students are Cody Barnett, Matt Collier-Wooten, Brittany Franclemont, Jakayla Howell, Tyler Knapp, Malik Njie, Hunter Perry and Frank Polanco.

"There were several other students that were willing to shave their heads, but their parents were not too keen on the idea," Grady-Watts said.

She said the students and teachers are ready to lose their locks to honor a local toddler, Violet Murphy, 2, from Westerville, who went through surgery and aggressive chemotherapy treatment this year.

Her mother, Desiree Murphy, spoke at a school assembly Nov. 25. She said Violet was diagnosed with a brain tumor last January and that her last chemotherapy treatment in July almost took her life.

She said Violet is now in remission, after spending one-third of her life in the hospital.

The Reynoldsburg teachers and students will have their heads shaved at a public event hosted by St. Baldrick's Foundation March 15 at Fado's Irish Pub at Easton Towne Center -- if they reach their $6,000 goal. Half of the funds will go to St. Baldrick's for childhood cancer research and half to Nellie's Catwalk for Kids, to provide financial and emotional assistance to families affected by childhood cancer.

The fundraiser is called "Be the Answer for Kids with Cancer" and donations are accepted at Put Team Raiders in the search box.

The team has set a deadline of March 1 to raise the $6,000.

Grady-Watts said Reynoldsburg students responded quickly to Violet's story.

"I have to say that these students simply amaze me with their empathy and eagerness to help those in need," she said.

She said society too often has a negative opinion of teens.

"The truth is, they are a kind, caring, ambitious generation who I firmly believe will solve many of the problems facing the world," she said. "That will be their legacy."

Howell said she was moved by Violet's story.

"The documentaries I've watched and seeing how strong Violet is inspired me to want to be the person to make a difference," she said.

Grady-Watts said the idea of actually shaving her head has caused a few "cringe-worthy" moments. "I despise my hair even cut to my shoulders," she said. "It is difficult, though, to hear a story as moving as our honored child, Violet, and not to be moved to do something absolutely drastic.

"As an advocacy teacher, I also want to lead by example. Talk can only go so far -- I want action from my students."

Druggan said the purpose of the HS2 Academy is to prepare students to serve others.

"Once students realize they can make a difference, the sky is the limit," she said. "Making a difference can require sacrifice and sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone. I want to show students that they are powerful and that they can make a difference."

Grady-Watts said students came up with the idea for the fundraiser during their Health and Human Advocacy class, which deals with world problems.

In addition to Desiree Murphy, others who spoke to the students at an assembly included Allyson Cummings, a former St. Baldrick's "shavee" and a childhood cancer advocate; and Riley Adams, an advocate who lost his sister to cancer.

The Reynoldsburg students have raised $800 so far and are planning a community event to be held in February.

On Dec. 17 and 18, the Bob Evans at 5970 E. Main St. will donate a portion of its sales to the cause.

Grady-Watts said she hopes community members will soon go online to donate.

Updates and information about future fundraising events will be posted on the school's Facebook page, called RHS Health Sciences and Human Services Academy.