After watching her best friend spend the past year battling cancer, Cameron McLaughlin wanted to do something in honor of Marlee Pack’s return to school.
The 9-year-old, who was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and recently finished 40 weeks of chemotherapy after having her foot amputated, was thrilled to hear that her friend was going to donate a portion of her long hair. But when Cameron decided that her original idea wasn’t enough and that she wanted to shave her entire head instead, Marlee had no idea just how big this sweet idea would bloom.
“When Cameron told Marlee she was thinking about shaving her head, Marlee got a huge smile on her face and said ‘we can be baldy besties together!'” Cameron’s mom, Cheray McLaughlin, told Today.
Inspired by her daughter, Cameron worked with a teacher, Jody Hempelmann, and transformed the idea into a school assembly to raise money for childhood cancer research. On March 16, Meridian Elementary School held the fundraiser called “Be Bold, Be Brave, Go Bald” and donated the proceeds to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The Colorado school-wide event was a major success – 80 students, three teachers, both principals, and one student’s parent volunteered to have their heads shaved.
When it was Cameron’s turn to take the stage and get her hair buzzed, Marlee held her hand as hundreds of kids cheered her on. “I told her that I cried when I did it, but she didn’t. She was brave,” Marlee recalled to the Broomfield Enterprise. “I thought people would make fun of me but people just supported me instead.”
Eight stylists volunteered for the event, and participants who were more comfortable with donating their hair rather than shaving their heads were encouraged to drop by the salon after school. The school raised over $25,000 and potentially the most exciting of all: Marlee got the opportunity to be the one to shave her first-grade teacher’s head.
“She’s been through so much in the past year, I think she just faces life head on now,” Marlee’s mom, Shelly Pack said. “This event only made her even more outgoing, confident and happy and as her mom, it’s refreshing to see.”