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Andrew students extend unity, compassion through St. Baldrick’s

With the countdown to the final day of the school year nearing, students, faculty and staff at Andrew High School capped off their building-wide fundraiser May 5 to raise funds to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, whose initiative is to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

Andrew High School teachers Jason Kulasa and Chris Moan served as this year’s masters of ceremony at Andrew Fest recognizing the many donors and their contributions to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“It doesn’t surprise me that our school comes together for a great charity to help childhood cancer,” Kulasa said.

Moan shared Kulasa’s sentiment.

“[St.] Baldrick’s is huge here at Andrew, and we do it so much good, we put it back out there for those in need,” he said.

This year alone, the charity raised more than $28 million across the world. Since 2006, Andrew High School has contributed more than $209,000 to support the cause.

“I did St. Baldrick’s 10 years ago when I was doing my student-teaching,” said Shawn Nussbaum, who’s taught at Andrew High School for seven years. “It’s always been an organization that’s been close to my heart. My mom had cancer [and] is a cancer survivor.”

Nussbaum said he remains optimistic a cure will be found some day to rid the world of cancer.

“I think however long ago they cured polio, I’m sure they thought they’re never going to get rid of this one, but we just got to keep plugging away,” he said. “Like I said, it’s the small things that matter.”

Nussbaum started growing out his hair two years ago with the hopes of braving the shave again.

“I just really like the sense of community it brings to the school,” he said. “Because it brings a lot of the students together to participate in something that has more meaning than your normal school event.”

In the days leading up to the event, student excitement was evident both inside and outside the classroom, Nussbaum said.

“The students definitely get into it,” Nussbaum said. “‘Oh, Mr. Nussbaum, you’re going to lose your hair. You’re going to be so different.’ I have to remind them that I’ve done it before and that it’s for a good cause. They only know me with long hair.”

Junior Amber Furman said she’s glad to support the cause in honor of her aunt.

“My freshman year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she’s in remission,” she said. “I want to like work with kids like this when I’m older. It’s kind of like tough to see what all these kids have to like struggle with. I think like just something like this simple helps them out just so much.”

Furman was seated in a chair at the center of the gym as her best friend’s mom looked to shave her head. She said she is happy to see the excitement expressed by others as she prepares to brave the shave.

“I have so much support, too, from like my friends and my family,” Furman said. “It’s very cool everyone’s like ‘Oh, you’re going to look so good. Like I’m so happy for you.’”

Junior Halle Swieringa was also looking to brave the shave with the goal of making a difference.

“I decided to do it because my grandpa, who I lived with, got diagnosed with cancer in about July,” she said. “He was very terrified to shave his head. So, I told him that I was going to shave my head so that we could both be bald.”

Three months ago, Swieringa’s grandfather died. To show continued support for the cause, she decided that she would still get her head shaved.

“My mom is shaving my head, so that’s pretty cool,” Swieringa said. “I’m very excited to feel what it feels like to not have hair.”

Swieringa said it is her hope that people will understand why she’s chosen to shave her head.

“A lot of people were like really surprised, of course, typically, because girls don’t usually shave their head,” she said. “Everyone’s sort of like, ‘Oh, my god, you’re going to shave your head. Like what are you doing? What are you doing?’ You just explain about like my grandpa, and I’m also doing it [for] one of my teachers. His daughter died of cancer at the age of 20 a couple years ago.”

“It’s just a symbol of like I’m losing my hair, like it’s not that big a deal,” she continued. “Bald is beautiful.”

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