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Cutting it close for cancer

It was a sunny and windy afternoon on Friday with the students of King’s Fork High School in the school courtyard for “Spring Fling” activities. It was also the perfect day for one of their teachers to get a haircut for a good cause.

English teacher Lori Starling sat at a table as KFHS senior Kayla Mingo, 18, held the scissors and clippers. A student of the cosmetology program at the College and Career Academy at Pruden, she made short work of Starling’s hair in front of a packed crowd of onlookers.

Several of her students also cheered her on as they encouraged others to donate to their “Brave the Shave” campaign against childhood cancer.

“With all of my students’ passion, they got me inspired to make a difference,” Starling said, “so I decided to shave my head (to) fight for childhood cancer, because they wanted to raise some money for the kids.”

Ninth-graders Jahonest Woodard, Tanyiah Harris, Amaya Freeman and Faith Cochran were beside Starling’s table, holding up signs that read “bald is beautiful” and “donate today.” They were all proud of their teacher and praised her new hairstyle.

“She looks great, and she’s amazing,” Faith said.

Starling said her short hair felt light and good. She also said it was going to be a fun surprise for her 4-year-old later that day.

“It doesn’t feel like I thought it was going to feel. I do feel my head burning from the sun, though,” she said, laughing.

This campaign started back in mid-March, when Starling introduced a tragic article about a young college athlete to her English classes.

For a non-fiction assignment, they read about Collin Sather, a University of Idaho football player who died on Feb. 26 after he had been diagnosed with advanced renal cancer. He was 19 years old.

Starling’s students wrote their summaries and impressions of the article. The story deeply moved her students, and they wanted to do something in response. Then Starling found out about Brave the Shave.

“I introduced it to the kids, and they jumped right on it,” she said.

Brave the Shave raises awareness for pediatric cancer and fundraises for critical research toward a cure. On March 29, Starling set up a fundraising page on bravetheshave.net with a goal of $500 by Saturday. She also promised to shave her head if her students reached their goal in time.

They reached $500 on Friday morning, and by the time they left for Spring Break that afternoon, they had raised $570 — including $19 that was donated during Starling’s promised haircut.

Proceeds will support the Brave the Shave Fund and the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, a children’s cancer charity that helps these kids’ families with financial assistance, research and advocacy.

“We made a deal,” Starling said before Kayla started cutting her hair, “(and) I’m going to do that in solidarity.”

She had approximately 140 students between her five English classes supporting this cause, she said. They wrote letters to send out to local businesses and organizations. They made posters and fliers and helped put together a video that was posted on the Suffolk Public Schools Facebook page.

Teachers, staff and others came out in support of this Brave the Shave campaign thanks to the tremendous work of these students, Starling said.

“I’m so proud of them. Every day I’m proud of them,” she said.

She wanted her students to learn how to write persuasively, understand the power of their words and see how those words can make a difference in the lives of others.

“I want them to learn that just a tiny bit of hope or inspiration can change lives,” she said.

Her students were taught well and acted accordingly.

“I learned don’t be afraid to be yourself,” Tanyiah said. “Make a change, be bold (and) just be positive and have a positive impact on the world, like Mrs. Starling here.”

Donations can be made to the school’s fundraising campaign for the next two weeks at donate.bravetheshave.net/campaign/2019FlagshipEvent/LoriStarling, after which donations can be made directly to the organization at bravetheshave.net.