More Than a Little off the Top

by Kari Apted

Haircuts are an ordinary part of most people’s lives, but in October, Jon Krieger had a trim he will never forget. The Mansfield Elementary School physical education teacher played a major role in the school’s fundraiser to support childhood cancer research. Paige Smith, a special needs teacher whose sister battled childhood cancer before her death at the age of 18, partnered with Krieger to organize the fundraiser. They chose The Rally Foundation to receive their collected donations. 

“Organizations like Rally and CURE, they were very, very instrumental in helping us along the way,” Krieger said, as he reflected on his son Anderson’s fight with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. “I told the kids that if they met our goal, they would get to see me bald. I’ve had short haircuts before but never bald. It’s well worth it for the fundraiser.”

The Rally Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, funds childhood cancer research around the world. Its mission is to empower volunteers to raise awareness and funds to support its cause. The foundation works to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures for pediatric cancer. According to the foundation, 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer every school day. For every dollar it raises, 93 cents go directly to childhood cancer research. 

Mansfield Elementary has long been known as a small school with a big heart, so the teachers felt confident in setting an ambitious goal of raising $5,000 over the span of one month. Apparently, Krieger’s incentive was a powerful one. Not only did students, teachers, staff and the surrounding community collect enough change to meet their goal, they exceeded it by over $2,000. In total, the school raised $7,017.11 to help children fighting cancer—and to see their favorite PE teacher’s shiny noggin.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the entire school was not able to witness Krieger’s transformation in person, but they all watched it live on Zoom. The class that raised the most money, Karen Piper’s third-graders, won the honor of being present in the gym for the event. They also got to paint their names on the wall. Mansfield Principal Chris Haymore, himself bald-headed, was eager to pick up the clippers and start Krieger’s charitable makeover. He was not only proud of the school’s achievement but delighted that there would be another bare head on staff.

“[Being bald] is a lifechanging experience. He’s going to wake up in the morning and not know what to do with all the free time he has because he doesn’t have to dry or style his hair,” Haymore joked. “It was a good challenge. Coach Krieger is a good sport being willing to do that for the kids.”

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Anderson was surprised when his father sent him a picture of his bald head. “I didn’t even know he was doing it,” he said. “He just sent me this picture out of nowhere, but when I found out why, I thought it was cool.” Anderson also recalled that when he first lost his hair to chemo, his father offered to shave his own head in solidarity. He had declined. “I didn’t want him shaving his head just for me,” Anderson said. “For some people, I’m sure it makes them feel better, but I was thinking that if I were to lose a leg, I wouldn’t want you to chop your own leg off. Why do we both have to go through it?”

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted.

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