St. Baldrick's event a celebration of Madison Elementary survivors
There were a lot of shiny heads -- and smiles -- Friday at Madison Elementary School in Wheaton.
Students, teachers, parents and other family members gathered in the gym to watch 60 participants get their heads shaved or hair partially cut off to support the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funds pediatric cancer research.
Amid cheers and clapping, Principal Tim Callahan announced the school raised more than $20,000 for the foundation. The school's goal was $5,000.
"You're doing your best to make sure other kids don't have to go through what our friends went through," Callahan said, referring to three Madison students who are cancer survivors.
That includes first-grader Sophie Cho, who just finished her last chemotherapy treatment around this time last year.
Her mother, Jeannie Cho, said the event was "awesome," especially because the support wasn't coming just from friends in Sophie's classroom, but from the entire Madison community.
"We're just really thankful that we can be a part of this community that is really encouraging and makes her feel like one of the kids," Jeannie Cho said. "She doesn't feel like she's different, she doesn't feel like she's sick or anything."
Callahan handed out survivor medals to the children and called them superheroes who have "survived the worst, and who have fought it and who have beat it."
The other students, second-grader Nina Serna and third-grader Michael Polley, both battled cancer before they were enrolled at Madison.
"Really, it's just a celebration for all three of them. They've been through an unbelievable ordeal," Callahan said.
Another special guest at the assembly was Jefferson Early Childhood Center student and 2015 St. Baldrick's ambassador Chase Ewoldt.
Chase's mother, Ellie, explained the history of St. Baldrick's to the students and thanked them for their support of the foundation. She also told them of Chase's battle with cancer and how the treatments he was given had harmful effects because they were made for adults.
"What you guys are doing is saying this isn't good enough, we want better things for other kids who are our friends, and for other kids in America and in the world," she said.
Callahan said the St. Baldrick's event has become a valuable lesson for students. He feels it teaches them to have empathy for others who are struggling and helps them understand they "have a voice in this world and can make a difference."
"Social and emotional learning at school is so important," he said. "We can't always focus just on the reading and math. This whole staff believes wholeheartedly in raising the whole child. And I know this community here does too."