Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hearts And Heads

Decorating heart-shaped cookies

Nothing says love like something made with real butter. Or something like that.

I was supposed to bring cookies or a treat for Sean's 5th grade class Valentine's Day party and I had grand designs of making homemade strawberry shortcake or homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies and frosting for the kids to decorate. But life's events didn't allow me to get started on the project until about 10 pm the night before, so I made a few compromises.

Sean watching a movie with his class

Someone else brought in a package of store-bought cookies and canned frosting for the kids to decorate and I made 100+ chocolate chip cookies with real butter. Somebody must have liked them, I saw the empty container in the kitchen this morning. I don't remember the last time I saw 2 lbs of butter disappear so quickly.

In middle school, they don't engage in such juvenile activities as Valentine's Day parties, at Steven's school this year they celebrated Valentine's Day with an old-fashioned ritual head shaving.

David "Mac" Balch, a boy at Steven's school, has an older brother in college (and former student at Carmel Valley Middle School) who has glioblastoma, a particularly hideous sort of brain tumor.

David and his family decided to organize a fundraiser for Art Of The Brain, a fundraising organization for the UCLA Neuro-Oncology Program, where David's brother is being treated.

Getting psyched to lose their locks

Nine of the staff at the middle school and almost as many students volunteered to have their heads shaved on Valentine's Day if the school managed to raise at least $5000 in a month.

(l to r) Steven's vice principal shaving a student's head, Steven's history teacher shaving his own head, and the custodian shaving his beard

Turns out they raised something like $7200, so on Valentine's Day it was time to go under the razor.

David Balch gets a shave from his mother

When the fundraiser was announced, Steven told me he wanted to volunteer to have his head shaved, as a sign of support. I queried him strongly before he committed as to whether or not he really wanted to go ahead with it and he said yes.

David Balch

Then the last few days preceding the event, he was unsure. When I showed up to watch the festivities, he was late and I feared he wouldn't show.

David's mom shaves Steven

But I needn't have worried, he walked in and left with a smile. He is somewhat self-conscious about his permanent bald spot, especially at school, and he had to remove his hairpiece to do this.

Steven going bald

The boy's mother shaved her own son's head first. They had offered me the opportunity to shave Steven's head and I balked at first.

Steven with a mohawk

I have a very painful memory of the only other time I shaved Steven's head, in the shower at Ronald McDonald House in Memphis during radiation.

Students and staff

But today things are different and I am filled with hope for his future. I had such mixed feelings about him doing this, but no more.

Almost done

Now I'm just terribly proud of him and I adjusted to seeing him bald after just a few hours.

All smiles

He refers to his incision scar as his battle scar. He'll have to figure out what he wants to do about his bald spot as his hair grows out, but we'll work something out.

Another student

So for now, washing and combing his hair and maintaining his hairpiece are a thing of the past.

Steven and David

And we can cross head lice off our list of worries for a while.

Steven's new hat

In support of his brother, Carmel Valley Middle School student holds successful ‘Snowbald’ fundraiser for brain cancer research

Adam and David Balch are ready to shave Carmel Valley Middle School principal Michael Grove’s hair this week.

Mom Patty with sons Adam and David Balch.

By Catherine Kolonko

David Balch wanted to do something more than shave his head to show his support for his big brother’s battle with brain cancer. And now with the help of classmates, teachers and staff at Carmel Valley Middle School he is very close to meeting a goal to raise $5,000 for brain cancer research.

“I’m excited,” said the 13-year-old CVMS student in a recent telephone interview. “It looks like we’re going to make it.”

For the past few weeks, students and staff have worked together to try to raise $5,000 for the fundraiser. If the goal is met, several school staff members and David will shave their heads. As of Monday, Feb. 11, about $4,000 had been raised with just $1,000 more to go to meet the goal by a Feb. 14 deadline.

David’s counselor Toni Zurcher coordinated the efforts at school, including sending permission slips home for any students who wanted to join in the Valentine’s Day shear fest. So far about 15 school male staff members are on the list of the soon-to-be bald, she said.

“It just snowballed until we had the whole history department,” chuckled Zurcher.

The school’s principal, Michael Grove, who also agreed to a head shaving, noted that he hasn’t been without hair since he was a tiny baby. “It will be interesting to see what I look like,” Grove said.

It’s an event that even Principal Grove’s big sister probably won’t miss. No doubt she will be as delighted as the students and staff, and will probably volunteer with glee to shave his head, he said.

Adam Balch, David’s 22-year-old brother, has glioblastoma brain cancer. The eldest of the Balch brothers, Adam was attending college away at UC Santa Cruz in 2006 when he called his mother and complained of a severe sinus headache that left him in tears. When he came home and went to the doctor, the cancer was discovered through an MRI.

“We were just floored,” said Patty Balch, a mother of four sons. “He’s never sick. Never.”

Within 24 hours, Adam underwent surgery to remove the brain tumor, an aggressive type of brain cancer, Patty said. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy and daily doses of radiation. The chemotherapy is expected to run a two-year course. Meanwhile, doctors are trying various medicines to attack the cancer.

“It’s a game of trying to figure out what will work because it’s so rare,” Patty said.

Recently MRI results of Adam’s brain “look really good,” Patty said, but doctors are concerned because the cancer has escaped the brain and moved to his face, a rare occurrence, Patty explained. Despite his health struggles, Adam continues with his college education with a goal of becoming a scientist, said his mother.

“He gets up every day and goes to school at UCSD,” she said. “He doesn’t complain much.

“Everyone who meets him is just amazed. He just keeps going and going.”

A mother of four sons, Patty said she is also very proud of her youngest David because he wanted to do something really special to show support for Adam. Despite his shyness, he has done a great job at leading the fundraising efforts, she said. He plans to give the money to the brain cancer research center at UCLA where his brother is being treated.

“It’s been very empowering for David.”

Principal Grove and the eighth-grader’s counselor Zurcher also said they are impressed by David.

“It’s been really neat to watch him take a leadership role,” Grove said. “It’s a fantastic cause.”

“He’s the sweetest kid, really brave for doing this for his brother,” Zurcher said. “He’s a well-rounded kid, really nice. I’m proud of him.”

Zurcher believes the $5,000 goal will be met by the deadline.

Students are looking forward to the day they get to watch their school principal lose his locks in the name of a good cause.

“They are very excited and they can’t wait to see Mr. Grove get his head shaved,” Zurcher said.

The big moment begins on Valentine’s Day at lunchtime “at 12:15 bzzzzzz” Zurcher said.

“We’ll save Mr. Grove for last.”

- Kathleen

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Blogger Doug S said...

You have one of the coolest kids that I've ever "met". Way to go Steven!

February 21, 2008 4:29 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Kathy ,
please tell Steven for me that I am so proud of him and all the kids and staff who participated. Your post made me cry with joy at their charity. Let him know, that Kayla, who a year ago was bald by no choice of her own, also shaved off her newly grown locks this week in a cancer fundraiser, as did her little sister. These kids understand what it means to the people who will be helped by the funds raised. My prayers will be said for Davids Brother.
Love and Hugs to you all!

February 21, 2008 4:11 PM  

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