Newspaper article from Wenatchee World

Students feel teacher Robert Bowman's head, newly shaved for a
Make A Difference Day cancer project that included collecting hats.

Cold Heads, warm hearts

Orondo students get buzz cuts and collect 1,407 hats for cancer patients
By Paysha Stockton World Staff Writer

Orondo- Twelve-year-old Lorne Hill had a head full of hair when he left for school Friday morning. But he went home bald.

"Bowl cut, thick. Now it's gone," he said, rubbing his blondish - brown stubble. "My head's cold now."

His sixth-grade teacher, Robert Bowman, took the blame. He buzzed right down the middle of Hill's head. The hair fell in his eyes, the student said, and it itched. Bowman himself was already shaved. And before volunteer barber Rob Mouch left the school, about 10 more boys lost their hair-but to a good cause. For the past month, Bowman's class has studied different types of cancer, questions about chemotherapy, radiation and read survivor stories.

And as of Friday, they had collected 1,047 hats for cancer patients in hospitals nationwide- a contribution to National Make A Difference Day. The hats-baseball caps, woolly fedoras, L.L Cool J. hip hop hats, straw hats with bows, cowboy hats, checkered beach hats, berets, crocheted hats with fuzzy balls, velvet flowered hats, and stocking caps-were all donated. They came from local companies such as Stemilt and Asplund's and from big -name donors such as Starter and Intel. Many of them came from people like Len Gardner, who read a letter in the newspaper and drove straight to Orondo form Quincy bearing 150 hats. He returned later with another 50. Then he came back with his wife Ladonna for the festivities and brought 10 more.

"If I had a little more time I could probably collect a couple more hundred," Gardner said, watching the kids model caps in a fashion show in the gym Friday afternoon. The hats, packed into boxes throughout the day were due at the Orondo post office by 3:30 p.m. sharp.

The celebration- with the head shavings, plays, a hat fishing derby, a temporary tattoo table and fashion show- was personal for the kids and teachers.

Sandy Beardsley, an Orondo Elementary reading and writing specialist, is undergoing radiation in Spokane for a brain tumor. Every day, Bowman's 27 students bow their heads, join hands and "think Beardsley," the teacher said. "At first you think it's going to be a cheeseball-the kids won't get into it," Bowman said, "Now they remind me to do it." They also send the teacher good thoughts via e-mail on her laptop computer, he said.

Another teacher talked to the class about surviving brain cancer. Many students know someone who had died or survived cancer. Dalton Fleming, a third-grader who had his head shaved, said his grandmother has cancer. Logan Price, another bald third-grader, said the two went under the shaver because "we care about other people that have cancer." All students needed parental permission to get the haircuts.

Orondo Principal, Carrie Ehrhardt said the students have become more compassionate through the HATS-Helping America's Troubled and Sick-project.

"We are so proud of these kids," she said.

Many people delivered hats in person, Ehrhardt said, and shared their stories. Students said the survivor tales were sad, but they didn't cry. I don't know if they really affected the kids, but they really got to us," Ehrhardt said.

Bowman said the project invigorated his classroom. "It's euphoric," he said.

Some of his students plan to take the cancer project even further.

"I think when I grow up I want to be a doctor, "said Jessica Mancilla a sixth grader, "It was so interesting, hearing the facts."

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