MONTREAL, JUNE 5, 2010 – There’s only truth in the statement that cancer touches everyone.
Cancer had appeared in Westmount High School teacher Mike Phelan’s family before, however, when he learned that several of his students and their loved ones were dealing with the disease, he knew it was time to do something.
Amazed by the strength, courage and resilience of his students, Mr. Phelan thought of parting ways with something near and dear to his heart to show his support: his hair and sideburns. Having had these locks since his high school days, he knew that it would be a personal sacrifice, but it was his way of standing alongside his students and raising some money on the side.
“My sideburns have been with me for prom, my wedding, and the birth of my daughter Gwendolyn,” said Mr. Phelan. “But if they've ever had a good excuse to go, this was it.”
As soon as word spread of his decision, the enthusiasm grew amongst the Westmount High community. Fuelled by the promise that the two largest fundraisers would get the chance to shave Mr. Phelan’s head and sideburns, the donations poured in.
Within a week and a half, the student body had raised over $550 for the Canadian Cancer Society, including a very special donation from student Marley Teed who broke her piggy bank to donate her birthday money. Her efforts earned her the honour to buzz Mr. Phelan’s sideburns, while the shaving of his hair was reserved for another huge fundraiser in Spencer Wise.
Yet, just to gauge how loved Mr. Phelan’s sideburns were at Westmount High School, upon hearing of his decision, a small group of students attempted to start a contra movement. Although their efforts fizzled quickly, they did manage to garner some support before ultimately caving into the masses who were excited to see their teacher’s new look.
“Some students really got involved for the fun of it, they enjoyed the thought of shaving off my hair and sideburns,” added Mr. Phelan. “Since all the money, even from the opposition movement, went towards cancer research, it was a fun way to end the year and try to do our part.”
While raising money was doing more than enough for some, Grade 10 student Dimitrios Koulogeorgiou took involvement to a whole new level as he surprised everyone by shaving his head along with Mr. Phelan.
“Dimitrios really proved how involved everybody got in this,” said Mr. Phelan. “Being without sideburns feels different, but I like it. The sideburns have been an identity thing for so long. My wife was certainly surprised, although she thought it would be more drastic than it was, nonetheless, she was supportive throughout.”
“I did keep my hat on for Gwendolyn though,” he added. “At one point I took off the hat and I got a bizarre look from her, but now she’s totally cool with it.”
As she should be!