Northwood families supported
Kaitlyn Kuzara had never been the target of bullying until she decided to shave her head.
The sixth-grade student at Northwood Elementary School used to have dark, healthy hair that flowed past her shoulders. She liked her hair but knew that someone else would appreciate it more. She voluntarily went bald about five weeks ago in honor of her mother, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The mother currently seeks chemotherapy treatment from Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Last week at school, Kaitlyn shared how it felt to be called a number of unflattering names for her new look. Yet, the experience didn’t put a damper on her pride, nor did it stop her from encouraging her classmates to follow suit.
“You should all shave your heads, even if you’re a girl,” Kaitlyn said during the culmination of the school’s first “Goin’ Bald for Bucks” campaign on April 5. She added, “I did it for my mom.”
Her twin sister, Kayla, was also in the gymnasium that day to show support for the cause. She opted to receive a purple extension instead.
“I’m a wimp,” Kayla said a bit lightheartedly.
More than 80 students, parents, and staff members also received a purple hair extension for a $5 donation. An additional 30 people had their hair styled with purple tinsel for $15, and more than 100 heads were doused with purple hair spray for a $1 donation.
Those three styles alone netted a total of $1,500, which will be split evenly between two Northwood families affected by cancer. This includes the Kuzaras as well as the Turner family.
Brothers Jack and Liam Turner — fifth- and second-grade students, respectively — lost their father, Jim, in February to Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Jack had donated $120 of his own money toward the cause.
The brothers were among the 30 who shaved their heads last week at Northwood. Also part of the brave was Liam’s second grade pal, Lucas Baehre, who raised $570 for Roswell.
“I wanted to support my friend,” Lucas said on going bald.
He echoed a similar sentiment on his fundraising page, set up through the Goin’ Bald for Bucks website. On it, he also wrote, “I want to raise money so that, in the future, we can find a cure and no one loses their dad.”
Mother Melanie Baehre fought back tears as she watched her son shave his head. Lucas was said to have long, dirty-blonde locks that swept past his eyes and off to one side, similar to pop singer Justin Bieber’s.
“It was a big deal for him to get it cut,” she said last week. “I am so proud of him.”
During the event, Jack Turner served as emcee. He cheered for students as they entered the gym, directing each one into the appropriate line for “spray,” “extensions,” “tinsel” or “head shaved.” But when it was his turn to take to the microphone to thank everyone for their support, he became a bit more reserved and soft-spoken.
“It’s been hard without him,” he admitted of his father’s loss. “Thank you for everything.”
Northwood Principal Catherine Huber was also in attendance last week and had several inches of her hair cut off. Several stylists from Corto’s Salons donated their time and talents to do the cutting, spraying and shaving.
Brenna Fitzpatrick, the school social worker who initiated and organized the campaign, said Northwood Elementary exceeded her expectation by raising more than $10,000 for Roswell.
“When I decided to organize a ‘Bald for Bucks’ event at Northwood Elementary in February, I was very uncertain as to how much our school community would be able to raise, but I was certain it would be a meaningful event to all involved,” said Fitzpatrick.
“The support and generosity from everyone was overwhelming and showed how powerful a determined group of individuals can be when working together to achieve a common goal,” she added.”
The top student fundraiser at Northwood was first-grader Ryan Kulczyk, who collected more than $1,800 and shaved his head, along with his mother. His goal was only $100.
This is the first year that any school at the elementary level has become involved with the campaign, according to Roswell representative Kelly Kopra, who visited Northwood on April 5.
West Elementary and West Seneca West Senior High School recently joined this year’s campaign. Their fundraising efforts will conclude in May and June, respectively.
Last month, West Seneca East Senior High School raised more than $36,000 for Roswell. This was the third year the high school participated.