Students, staff and parents at Clayton Elementary School have
really put their heads together for one of their own.
In the past few weeks, they’ve run to raise money, organized fundraising garage sales and on Monday some of them showed up for a date with the electric razor, losing their locks to help out Gage Staley, a Grade 1 student undergoing treatment for cancer.
The six-year-old lad returned to school a week ago, after his latest round of chemotherapy at BC Children’s Hospital, so he was on hand to watch it all go down at the assembly.
The hair-razing plan began when learning support teacher Grant Temple issued a challenge, promising to shave his head if the students raised $1,000 for Gage and his mom. Then a Grade 7 student stepped forward, agreeing to shave his head if they raised another $1,200, which set off a chain reaction: a Grade 5 student pledged to have the sides of his head shaved while a Grade 3 girl agreed to cut off her long pony tail to donate for a wig for cancer patients.
“We really wanted to show support and stand behind Gage,” principal Dana Brown said, adding Gage and his mom are “very positive – real fighters.”
Parents have also gotten involved, holding community garage sales three weekends in a row.
On Sept. 30, the school held the Run For Gage. It was supposed to be the Terry Fox Run, but it made more sense to honour the hero in their midst. Gage watched that event on a DVD created specially for him.
In total, $5,700 has been raised.
Gage was only three when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, which effected his spine. It took him about a year to learn how to walk again.
He’s had two more rounds since then, most recently around the time of his sixth birthday, in June, ushering more chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hospital stays.
Mom Krystie Biernaczyk says Gage can’t walk for long periods of time, but he’s otherwise full of energy – always laughing or smiling.
“He’s hilarious,” Krystie says. “He’s always trying to make people laugh.”
Gage also worries about how other people are feeling. “He totally gets it. He’s grown up a lot.”
He loves his stuffed animals and Webkinz, too, bringing a different “stuffie” to school each day.
She’s grateful beyond words for the support shown by the school community – and her friend Terra King, another parent who organized garage sales to raise money for Gage and his mom. Terra, Krystie points out, also pledged to shave her head, a friend indeed.
The gesture means a lot to Gage, who won’t have to be the only person at school without hair, says Krystie, a dental hygienist who hasn’t been able to work while she’s been at her son’s bedside.
“All the support. It means so much,” she says. “The school is so amazing. It’s all the little things and all the big things. I don’t know what we’d do without the community we have here. It’s just unbelievably kind.”
Someone who came to the garage sale – a total stranger – has promised to help out by holding a fundraising Halloween party for Gage and his mom.
Krystie can’t deny how difficult it is to watch her child go through this, but she’s hanging in there.
“If he can do it, I can do it,” she says.