Emily Georgakopoulos held her hair up in her mirror at home, visualizing the new length on herself “a million times.” The sixteen year old was not encouraged by what she saw - as a girl whose very long hair fell over her shoulder blades, She could not imagine it being cut above her shoulders.
But on January 6, 2012, she sat on the gym floor at Londonderry High School, along with 231 other donors, to cut her hair in a simultaneous donation to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.
2012 marked the sixth year holding our annual cutting event on a January morning at the high school. Formerly a part of the winter sports pep rally, the numbers have grown so large, that it is now a separate “Day of Giving” assembly. The assembly is attended by the 1700 students at this New Hampshire high school, and hundreds of family, friends and community members.
The cut is a moment, the end of a journey that is years in the making. With 232 students, staff and alumni being cut all at once, it seems like a spectacle, and it is a sight to behold, but for every cut there is a story that can be told, some sad, some humorous, a reason that brought that individual to the gym floor.
These are the angels of Londonderry High School. It is an honor, with the support of the administration and faculty, to organize this opportunity for them to give.
Each angel received an “I pledged” t- shirt when they signed up, with the date of the event written on it. Long after that shirt has worn thin, they will still forever be one of our angels. The smile I see on each donor’s face after the cut never completely leaves their face.
This year, Governor John Lynch attended the event as our honored guest. He mingled with the donor/angels, and said a few words during the ceremony. It was a wonderful verification of our event to have him there. A few weeks later, he invited a few of the angels to attend his State of the State Address, and mentioned the event in his address as “the best of New Hampshire”.
This year was also special as we exceeded one thousand total donors. As part of a promise I made to her when we reached one thousand, I invited our very first donor, Ellyse Davis, to attend and see what she helped to begin. It was wonderful to have her there.
Also in attendance were Stephen Davis and his daughter Janet and her young family. Stephen’s wife, Ginger, was a teacher at the school, who lost her long battle with cancer last year. She had called out the “3-2-1 cut!” our very first year, the call that started it all. We presented Stephen with a large photo of Ginger calling out the cut, and making the call has now become an honor. This year, senior Kirsten Malloy, who donated three years in a row to honor her late mother, and has inspired so many to give, made the call.
Several state executives from the American Cancer Society were also in attendance. It is such an honor to have them there, to recognize their efforts with counseling and distribution of the wigs. I like to think of the angels donating as one end of the rainbow, and the ACS folks distributing the wigs as the other end of that rainbow, with the Hair U Wear folks and the support from Pantene all part of the rainbow’s sparkling arc.
Twenty-five local hair stylists also gave up their morning to be here and provide their expertise and TLC. The day would not be possible without them. Our wrestling room, transformed overnight by our custodial staff and Amy Fliger, a senior planning to attend cosmetology school, becomes the most beautiful salon in America for a few brief hours. All the clients are angels.
One humorous story told on the floor involved teachers Bridget and Lindsey. Friends since they were young, Bridget and Lindsey’s cut each other’s hair during a sleepover in tenth grade, and Lindsey’s hair was very short afterward, much shorter than expected. The next day, Lindsey’s boyfriend broke up with her. Lindsey stopped talking to Bridget for weeks. Well, to make a long story short, years later Lindsey ended up marrying that guy who broke up with her. Now, on the gym floor this morning, they were once again cutting each other’s hair. We all wondered, would the marriage survive another Bridget haircut? (It did).
As always, there are stories of loss, and strength beyond understanding. I sometimes read through the stories the donors write for me, and I recall the Dickens’ line, when Scrooge sees in his dream that the Cratchit family has lost Tiny Tim – “How does one endure it?”
Senior Valerie Lacasse donated this year as a senior for the second time in her high school career. She and her older sister Katie have donated multiple times. Katie first donated as a support for her mom, who had brain cancer. Her mother passed away, but only a week later, at the 2010 event, Valerie donated to honor her mother. They were on the floor again this morning, Katie wielding the scissors, Valerie donating her beautiful lengths, that in a few months would have been a prom updo, to put a smile on the face of someone else’s mother, who receives a perfectly color-matched real-hair wig, and doesn’t have to see the illness in the mirror, and as one woman told me, people no longer look at you with a “so sorry” pout and hold doors for you, no matter how far away you are.
Emily. Valerie. Lindsey. Ellyse. Bridget. Two hundred thirty two individuals, with so many students and family and community members ( what we refer to as “Lancer Nation”) supporting their efforts in so many ways. Photos capture the smiles, the sadness, the emotion as Lancer Nation gives of itself.
I saw Emily yesterday and asked if she liked her length. She smiled an “I don’t know if I should say this” smile, and said no. Now seven weeks out, it had grown enough that she was going for a trim, to shorten her bangs and style it differently. Did she regret making the cut?
Not at all. Not a bit.
No wonder we call them angels.
Year seven. 1/11/13.
This moving story was written by Steve Juster, an English teacher at Londonderry High School
All photos were provided by The Lancer Spirit newspaper staff
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