NEENAH — Sporting their powder blue Zephyrs jerseys, members of the St. Mary Catholic Middle School football team honored two school mates in a special way on Sept. 24 at Festival Foods in Neenah. The players stepped up in shifts to have their heads shaved in the event tent located on the north side of the parking lot. The participation by the football team and the entire St. Mary Catholic Middle School community showed support for two eighth grade students, Hannah Sherwood and Luke Peters, who deal with the repercussions of brain tumors. Proceeds from the event go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation which provides research funding for cures and improved treatment for pediatric cancer patients.
This year’s “Brave the Shave” event marked the third for St. Mary Catholic Schools. The previous two fundraisers were held at St. Mary Catholic High School.
“This is something very near and dear to me and Sue, Luke’s mom,” said Mona Sherwood, Hannah’s mother and event organizer. “Childhood cancer is probably one of the most underfunded for cancer research. My daughter, although she is a survivor, struggles with hearing loss. She had cataracts in both eyes and she has a lot of cognitive disabilities because of the radiation. Our goal is to bring more awareness, not only to pediatric cancer and to help find a cure, but to help find better treatments.”
Hannah, who has been cancer free for six years, assisted with games at the event, which also included face painting, hair extensions and a brat fry operated by the St. Mary Middle School Junior Optimist Club. Proceeds from the concessions were also donated to St. Baldrick’s.
In addition to St. Baldrick’s, which has given more than $1 million to the state of Wisconsin, primarily to American Family Children’s Hospital at UW-Madison, Mona Sherwood and Sue Peters are also working with a new charitable organization, the Children’s Cancer Family Foundation.
“They provide financial and emotional support to families just in the Fox Valley who have children dealing with pediatric cancer,” explained Sherwood.
The football team was not the first group to “Brave the Shave.” Two years ago, the UW-Oshkosh men’s basketball team joined the event. Last year, a group of dads participated. Getting the football players on board was an easy sell for coach Darrin Kuehn.
“I know Hannah and know the Peters family, both have amazing stories,” he said. “Football is really a tool for us to teach life, so whatever we can do to give back, to do what’s best, to care for others, fits into our core values.”
Kuehn, who is senior director of operations at Festival Foods, appreciates the businesses partnership with the event.
“I’m very proud of Festival for getting involved,” he said. “We are selling icons in our front end (a donation where a guest can include a name on the icon to be displayed in the store). We should raise about $20,000 through our front end to support families facing costs and getting their kids to and from cancer treatments.”
Sixth grader Eric Schaufelberger, who plays both guard and nose tackle, said that he would have had his head shaved even if his teammates were not part of the event. He is a friend of Hannah’s brother, Alex. There is a positive side to not having hair, said Schaufelberger.
“No more hair brushing,” he said
“When these kids shave their heads they to get to understand just a little piece of what it’s like to be a child going through cancer treatment,” said Sherwood. “Our hope is that if someone asks them, ‘Why are you bald?’ that they say, ‘I did this for pediatric cancer.’”
She appreciates the support from the team, classmates and the school.
“It’s an awesome sign of solidarity in standing with these kids and supporting them,” said Sherwood. “Kids just want to be kids, and they’ve spent years in the hospital and have dealt with a lot of stuff that most adults would have a hard time handling.”