For Craneville fifth-grader, his goal was more than just a trim

Student sheds locks to fight childhood cancer

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DALTON — Draped up to his neck in a barber's cape, Jack Curtiss' light-brown locks really stood out to the more than 100 pairs of wide eyes gathered around him in the gymnasium of Craneville Elementary School on Monday.

In a few moments, his hair would be gone, and that anticipation went through his audience of schoolmates like an electric buzz.

Weeks earlier, Jack issued a challenge: If his schoolmates could collect more than $50 to donate to the St. Baldrick's Foundation to support childhood cancer research, he'd shave his head.

His fellow schoolmates rose to the occasion. Three times over.

As of Monday, his classmates had collected $177.13 through donation cans placed in Craneville classrooms.

So that's why 10-year-old Jack was perched on a stool in the middle of the gym on Monday, to make good on his promise.

There to do the honors with the electric clippers stood Jack's father, Frank Curtiss.

Nearby stood Jack's fifth-grade teacher, Teresa Bills.

"Alright, Jack," she said, "say goodbye to your hair."

"Bye, hair," Jack said. He held a smile.

And with that, Jack's dad buzzed the electric clippers into action. As Jack's bangs slid off his head, his audience erupted in cheers and applause.

Every year for about 15 years, Bills has given her students each $5 to start a giving project to raise money for a charity of their choice.

"This is my first student who's ever offered to shave his head," she said.

For Jack, picking St. Baldrick's was an obvious choice.

"A lot of members of my family have died because of cancer," he said.

And shaving his head carried a deeper message. Jack decided to shave his head in solidarity with those who lose their hair during chemotherapy treatments.

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Jack's 9-year-old cousin in North Carolina, Sean Fleming, was one of those people. He was diagnosed with the rare cancer Ewing's Sarcoma at the age of 3.

After about a year of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Jack's cousin no longer actively has the disease.

Jack's grandparents on his father's side died of cancer.

The money Jack raised will be used for research into childhood cancers.

"I had a lot of kids bring in baggies full of change," said Stephanie Morris, a second-grade teacher at Craneville. "Our can was full."

The collection process took about two weeks.

In the process of collecting money for Jack's project, Morris' students began looking forward to their time in the fifth grade, when they would get to pick their own charity to help.

"They talked about when they're in fifth grade — what are they going to do?" Morris said.

Although this was Jack's first time shaving his head in front of his school, it wasn't his first time doing it for St. Baldrick's.

The foundation has more than 1,000 head-shaving events per year, where participants shave their heads in connection with fundraising for the charity.

About four years ago, the entire Curtiss family shaved their heads — Jack, his brother, and mom, Bonnie and dad, Frank.

"My co-workers challenged me $1,500 to shave my head that year," Bonnie Curtiss said.

She raised the $1,500 — and then some.

After the barber's cape was removed, a freshly shaven Jack answered questions from the audience of his classmates.

Would he do it again?

"Probably, yes."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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