OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- St. Thomas Aquinas celebrated a 10-year anniversary and more than 1,000 cuts on Friday. FOX 4's Melissa Stern was there for an event marking the school's fight against cancer, one lock of hair at a time.
“About a year ago, my aunt was diagnosed with Stage IV uterine cancer,” said Emily Conard, a student.
“I’ve had family members die from cancer, so I know the pain that losing your hair can cause,” added Sophie Ayers, another student.
“I wasn’t aware of my mom’s cancer that much throughout my childhood, so I never really put in the effort to help, you know, as a seven year old, you don’t really know what you can do, so now it kind of feels like I’m helping,” said another student, Maggie Gould.
Nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. Students at St. Thomas Aquinas are no different, which is why about 140 students are donating at least eight inches of hair to be made into free wigs for cancer patients.
“It’s just nice to know that if you were sick, or you needed some help, that someone in your community was willing to reach out and make a sacrifice in their own life to help you with something,” Conard added.
The boys brought the girls flowers, they counted down, then students made the cut together in front of more than 1,000 people. Maggie Gould cut a friend’s hair in memory of her mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2015.
“Hair was such a huge part for her, she always loved her hair,” Gould said, “and when she lost it, it was super hard for her.”
During the “Wigs Out” assembly, cancer survivors and people currently undergoing treatments spoke. One of those people is Lauren Debaun, who’s celebrating her 20th year in remission after having Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“I had pretty intense chemotherapy because my cancer was really progressed and my doctors said because I was healthy, they could blast me with chemo, so about a month after I started treatment my hair fell out,” said Debaun, “I could comb my hair and it literally comes out with the comb in huge chunks.”
She said being in the assembly is so powerful and emotional, as these girls are about the age when she was diagnosed.
“These girls… they’re teenagers, it’s their hair, their identity…it’s terrifying to them, and it’s very brave of them to do that, it’s a good example of self-sacrifice for the good of others,” said Debaun.
All the proceeds the school has raised from t-shirt, raffle tickets, and wristbands sales are also going to an organization called “Strike Out Cancer.”