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Author?s note: This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the integrity of the people spoken about. As this is a truthful story and it is MY story, under no circumstances is it to be downloaded for personal use. Nor is it to be forwarded to any other board without the expressed written permission of the author, myself. Please show your respect for my wishes. I have opened my soul here. I have visited this board a number of times and I have read with interest a number of stories. I have never submitted anything to this board. Maybe because I am a youth. And I don?t know how I am supposed to react to the situation that took place in my life 1.5 years ago. Maybe someone out there will tell me that I am normal? Maybe someone will tell me that it is acceptable to lose a friend to cancer and fulfill his last wish for him? Maybe someone will tell me that I am not the only person who has experienced this situation? I don?t know. I will not tell you where I live or where the school is. That is none of your business. But I will tell you my story.

It was 1:45pm on Monday afternoon. 4500 Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9, Grade 10 and Grade 11 students gathered in the school auditorium, waiting for the general assembly to start. On the stage were two easels. On the easels were enlarged photographs of one particular student. The students mulled around talking to friends, talking about plans for the weekend, talking about upcoming exams, and talking about trivial things. In the back room it was a different scene. The schools principal was beside herself. What she was about to do scared her somewhat. She knew more about this student then most of the students in the school. She knew how much his sickness hurt him and how much he just wanted to be accepted. How he felt he did not fit in. She finally walked out onto the stage and she stood in front of a microphone. She hit the face of the mic and she finally spoke.

?Please take your seats,? she said. The students just kept on mulling around. She was now getting frustrated. She called out again. ?Please show some respect here and take your seats,? she called out. ?You still have classes to attend and I still have my work to do.? The students finally started to co-operate. She stepped back from the podium and waited for the student body to settle down. Even the physical education coach had to walk up to the podium and address the community of school jocks and their girlfriends. Finally she had everyone’s attention. She walked back to the podium.

She looked out into the gathering. ?For those of you who have never seen me before and who have never had the opportunity to be sent to my office, let me tell you that I probably know more about you then you know about me. My name is Ms. Humpheries. I am the school principal. By now you have all seen the two pictures on the podium. Some of you may recognize the student, some of you were classmates with him, some of you might even have been tutored by him but I am sure that the majority of you don?t even know what a special young man this student was. Because the majority of you never took the time to get to know him. You laughed at him when he staggered down the hallways to his classes. You kept you distance from him and you scoffed at him when his skin was discolored, either white or grey because of the medication he was required to take in order to live. The jocks tortured him, laughed at him, the girls included. All this young man wanted was to have a friend. Well he found one in me and a number of his teachers.

?Dale Saunderson came to this school 2.5 years ago as a junior student. When he entered this school he carried with him a love for life, a love for animals and a curiosity about what surprises he was going to encounter in Junior High school. But he also carried the beginning of a secret, a sickness that made him vulnerable to diseases and periods of weakness. But in spite of that he had a zeal for knowledge. Even when he was home in bed with his sickness, he begged teachers to bring him homework so that he could keep learning. Middle of grade 7, he was the top student in the Grade 7 community. At that time after Christmas break, he got the bad news; finding out he made cancer. But after a short period of time in hospital under the best care possible, he returned to school the third week of January. He got involved in a number of school activities, making him happy and masking his pain. I knew he was hurting but he always had a smile on his face.

?I saw him cry when he was picked on by the seniors. They would knock his books out of his hands and then kick the books down the hall. He would drop to the floor and just sit there with his hands over his head, just praying for the laughing and the torment to stop. When it finally did stop, he would get up slowly from the floor, go and collect his books and stagger down the hall to his first class. He never told the teacher who was doing these cruel things to him. His parents just told him to ?Be strong. God will repay in his time.?

?But he did tell me who was doing these things and he begged me not to do anything. I remember he told me once: ?They are just acting out. They do not fully understand. I hold no ill-will.? I got to see more and more how strong this young man was, every day.

?That summer his condition got worse and he lost his hair. But in September he was back in school, looking a lot better, color in his face and I even saw that he had been working out. He had developed some muscles in his arms and he was walking better. The first day back in school, he walked past my office and some of the jocks were standing in the hall. One of the jocks went to knock away his books, but Dale acted faster and knocked his books out of his hands. And Dale kicked his binder down the hall. The jock was livid and I sensed trouble. I stood at the doorway of my office and I told the jock out loud in front of his peers: ?You so much as touch him and you will find yourself suspended and off any teams you try to get on this year. You have no right to persecute him because he is weaker then you. So warning to all off you. Watch your steps.?

?I slapped Dale?s hand and asked him how his summer had been. We talked for a few minutes and then he did something that shocked me. He took off his baseball cap. ?I lost my hair over the summer, Ms. Humpheries because of my chemotherapy. It was sad for me when my hair started falling out in clumps. I cried for days. Uncontrolled. But my dad helped me get through the depression. He took me to work with him and I met some terrific people. People who made me feel alive again.?

?That year the school started a mentor program designed to help students in Junior High with their courses. One of the first two students to sign up as a student mentor was Dale. The second student to sign up as mentor was John. Both of these two young men were in demand as soon as the students found out how smart they actually were. Many of the students brought their class averages up because of Dale and John. I personally was proud of Dale and John. Dale would stay in the library until 5:00 when his father would come and pick him up and take him home. I would see the smile on his face when his father came to pick him up. But I also saw how tired he was becoming. For any of you who know little about cancer, I encourage you to look into some of the health books we have moved into the library. You will hopefully understand what Dale was going through.?

At that time Ms. Humpheries looked to the side of the podium and she pointed to me. I walked out on the podium, carrying a folder in my hand. She looked at the student body. ?You know who this young man is. You have maybe seen him working hard in the library, working with the mentorship program. He is also on the debating team and he also is a volunteer in the library. I would like you to show respect for Dale?s friend, John. John has a few words he would like to read to you. John, it is all yours.?

I walked to the lectern and stood in front of the entire student council. Some of the students stood and clapped, but the majority just sat there, yawning. Wanting the meeting to end. I looked out and cleared my throat.

?Due to the sad death of my best friend Dale and after meeting with my father and Dale?s father and after meeting with the state board and the school board, I am pleased to announce the implementation of a scholarship program in the name of Dale and myself. It is called the ?Disabilities do not make us different? program. It will give $20,000 over a two-year period of time. $10,000 from the state board, $5,000 from the school board and teachers, and finally from JET Transportation, an additional $5,000 to one student who excels in the mentorship program and improves their GPA raising their grades to honor roll. This will be a two-year program given to the appropriate student and used toward tuition to college or university. This is also to advise you that the library is to be dedicated in the name of Dale Saunderson. The Saunderson Memorial library will have its official opening this weekend and members of the official media will be here to take pictures and record the events of the day. Please, I encourage as many of you to come out and celebrate Dale?s life with us. Thank you,? I said.

I stepped back from the podium and looked to Ms. Humpheries. I had a questioning look in my eyes. She walked over to me and I asked her if I should read the second announcement. She told me to do it if I was comfortable doing it. I walked back to the podium. ?May I have your attention once more, please? I have one more request to make on behalf of Dale and his parents,? I said. The student body was talking and seemed to be inattentive. ?You people don?t get it, do you? You people disgust me. I am sorry I am a part of this student community.?

The physical education coach walked up to the podium. ?I am disgraced by the attitude of my community. When you are told to listen, I expect to see it. All you jocks, shut up and pay attention when you are asked to or you will find yourselves off the teams. Your not listening to Ms. Humpheries and to John shows that you do not respect me when I talk to you. Now shut up. All of you. Eyes forward, everyone of you.? He turned and looked at me. ?They are yours now. I am sorry you have to endure this and we are not sorry to have you here nor Dale.?

I looked back at Ms. Humpheries and she smiled and nodded. I looked out into the audience. ?Dale?s last wish to me was to find some way to get the student body and the community involved in raising money for the cancer society and to make it an annual drive for the community. My father and I have canvassed the community, drummed up support for a number of local merchants and local celebrities. We have even asked a number of the teachers to support this drive and help raise $50,000 plus toward the fight against cancer. At the official dedication of the Dale Saunderson library we will be holding a ?Lose your Locks for Cancer? drive with all proceeds to go to cancer research. A number of teachers have agreed to cut their hair and some have even said they will shave their heads in Dale?s memory.

?Dale, in his own way, will live on in this school. We hope that this event will be a yearly event to remember Dale. Barbers from the community will set up chairs in the parking lot. For a $10.00 contribution you can show your support for Dale. I will be one of the first ones in the chair. If you are interested in donating your locks to cancer research, I will be in the library this afternoon taking names of any that wish to come out. Thanks in advance for your support and thank you for your time today. In the meantime, if anyone needs to talk to someone about Dale and how serious his cancer was, there are three councilors from the Cancer Society in the library right now to answer any questions you might have and there is a psychiatrist in the guidance councilors office for anyone who needs grief counseling. Thank you very much for your attention,? I said as I stepped away from the lectern.

Ms. Humpheries stepped forward. ?You are all dismissed. You have classes to get to,? she said. She walked over to where I was standing. She put her hand on my shoulder. ?I know that was hard. You can go home if you want. I don?t think your teachers would blame you.?

?No. I am going to stay. I said I was going to go to the library and take names for the drive. I promised Dale I would do it. I think I need to do it,? I said. She handed me my cane and we walked off the stage together.

?Well I will come and check in with you later, okay?? she said. I nodded as I walked my way down the hall.

I was actually surprised when a number of jocks came up to me and spoke to me. The head jock even apologized for the conduct of his peers. ?We are sorry. We really did not know how serious it was. We are going to go and speak to the councilors and get some more information,? he told me. He was not lying because when I did show up in the library, he was there with his girlfriend and a couple of other jocks. I sat down at a table and opened a binder. I wrote my name on the top line. He walked over to where I was sitting. ?Are you seriously going to be the first person to sit in the chair and get your hair cut?? I nodded. He looked at his girlfriend and his friends. ?We want to show our support. We as a team want to shave our heads too. If I do it, they will too, won?t you guys?? he said as he looked them all in the yes. ?Put your names in this young man?s binder after my name.? He looked at his girlfriend. ?What about the cheerleaders??

?We are not going to shave our heads. You think we are crazy?? she answered.

He looked at her again. ?You do love me don?t you?? he asked her. ?You care about the school spirit, don?t you? We are looked up to. Do it for the school spirit.?

She looked at me. She looked at a few of her friends on the squad. They answered: ?We will do it if you do,? they said.

I looked at her. She stood to lose the most if she did it. She looked back at him. ?Would I have to shave it off, all of it??

?No. You could get it cut short. It is up to you,? I said.

?Okay I will cut it to shoulder length. Put my name down,? she said. After I took the names, I sat back. In 10 minutes I had ten names already plus my own. Five jocks and five cheerleaders.

At 4:15 the buzzer went off and Grades 7 and 8 were dismissed. But there were still classes for the high school classes. I was still sitting in the library and more students came in asking for information about signing up and supporting the drive. All I could do was promise to put together a flyer that they could give to their parents and explain what we were trying to do. Also some teachers came and signed up to support the drive. At 4:30 Ms. Humpheries came to check in on me. I showed her the list and she was actually surprised to see the names of five prominent jocks and their girlfriends. She also saw the names of a number of teachers. ?It looks like we are going to have success on the weekend,? she said. ?Is there anything you really need right now?? I told her about the need for some sort of a flyer that we could give to parents and explaining what we were trying to do. She agreed that that was a good idea. ?Leave it with me. I think I can get someone to do it for us for nothing,? she told me. ?Do you want me to call your dad and have him come and pick you up??

?Yes but not for another hour. I want to see if I am going to get any further support from the Grade 9, Grade 10 and Grade 11 students,? I said.

She looked at my binder a second time. ?I think we can do this,? she said. She took out a pen from her breast pocket and right under my name she wrote her name. ?I might as well set the example. If you are going to shave your head, I will too. I think Dale will be looking down on us when we actually get in the chairs. Are you planning to say a few words before the event happens??

?Basically what I said at the assembly today. What about you?? What are you going to say at the dedication?? I asked her.

?Something short and sweet and then I will introduce Dale?s father and your father. I know Dale?s father has something planned. He phoned me this afternoon after the assembly,? she said. ?Well I will call your dad in an hour. You are sure you are okay?? I nodded my head. ?I am proud of you John.?

By the end of the week: I was really overcome by the support I had received from the school community. The physical education coach was dared by four teams to shave his head and if he did it and kept it shaved for the rest of the school year, the four teams agreed to donate $1000.00. I got the same response from the girls teams. They dared their coach to go all the way and if she did, they would also donate $1000.00. I had 7 members of the cheerleaders team, including their leader. They were not going to go totally bald but they were going to go short. I had 50 teachers who were going to step up to the plate and they were willing to pay more then the $10.00 Ms. Humpheries and I had determined we would ask for as a contribution. Some of the students even agreed to pay more then what we asked. But we made sure it was within reason. But we did take larger donations and pledges from the sports jocks because they really had changed their attitudes over the week.

I knew I had $25,000 in contributions from the community and from local celebrities who had agreed to show their support. So really it was my goal to raise the remaining $25,000 from the school and the student community. On Friday evening I found myself sitting with my father, Dale?s father and Ms. Humpheries, counting money and pledges. It took us atleast three hours to get through it all. I was amazed as I looked at Ms. Humpheries. ?We did it. We raised $35,000 from the student community and the teachers. We did it,? I said. I walked over and gave her a hug. ?Thank you for believing,? I said.

?No thank you for making me a believer,? she said. She got up and my father walked her to her car. ?John? I will see you tomorrow. Everything will be okay,? she said as she was shown out. I knew it was going to be.

9:00am the next morning. My father drove me to the school early. Ms. Humpheries was already there in the auditorium. She had already taken a number of groups on tour of the new library. When I got there, I was greeted by members of the local media and I was interviewed by a number of radio stars, television stars and newspaper writers. I gave my first tour. We did tours until 10:15. At that time, the auditorium was opened and people were invited inside.

It was peaceful as Ms. Humpheries stood on the podium. She thanked everyone for coming to the dedication. She spoke for fifteen minutes and then she invited Dale?s father to come up to the podium. He spoke about the special relationship he and his son had. He also spoke about Ms. Humpheries and how Dale wished he was older because he would have wanted to give her a kiss for just being a friend and for caring. He spoke about how Dale was looking down on this event and how it had his blessing. Then with that, he announced that the Dale Saunderson library was now officially opened and he pulled back the cover on an easel that was beside him. It showed the new entrance that had been graciously donated by a local contractor and had been installed over night. New desks, new computers, new book shelves; everything so new. So perfect.

Then Dale?s father introduced me and called me to the stage. ?I want all of you here to meet a strong young man who was Dale?s best friend and who worked his ass off to bring you all here today. To get you out to the school and see what a difference he has made. This is Dale?s best friend, John,? he said. He shook my hand and gave me a huge hug. ?Thank you for everything you have done for Dale and thanks to your dad for everything he has done for me.?

With that done, Dale?s father was given the keys to unlock the doors to the library. Ms. Humpheries walked to the podium. ?We do not have time to take all of you on a tour of the library at this time but we will take the local media and the national news people on a quick tour and if anyone wants to hang around later, you are welcome to do so. So could we ask the local newspaper representatives, the city paper, and the national papers to stand at the side wall. Also the local television station, the city news and national news? I think that is 60 people. And could we have the local mayor and the business community and the members of the school board and state board? I am sorry that is all we have room for. John? Would you also accompany us? Thank you everyone. Please feel free to associate. There are some information packages you are welcome to have and there are refreshments in the cafeteria and outside. Thank you all for coming and your support,? she said. With that about 100 people followed her out of the auditorium and we all walked to the library together.

Outside in the parking area barbers and hair stylist were setting up chairs for the large event. The three members from the Cancer Society had agreed to donate their time and collect the pledges and money from the people who were going to participate. At 2:00 in the afternoon after Ms. Humpheries, myself and Dale?s father had finished lunch with the media, we walked outside to the parking lot. Now it was my time. I walked up to a microphone. I was surprised to see all the students who were there and the teachers. I asked one of the Cancer Society volunteers if we were missing any people who had committed themselves to the event. I was shocked to see how many people had signed in. Actually everyone who had committed had come out.

?Thank you all for coming today. I am sorry we could not give tours to everyone today but I think we did a good showing. You will see pieces on the news tonight and I have been assured that there will be write-ups in the newspapers next week. Thank you for that,? I said as I turned to the local media.

?One of the last things Dale said to me before he passed away was that he wished there was someway the local student body could organize a drive to raise money for cancer research. He suggested a ?Lose Your Locks for Cancer Research? drive. He wanted it to be an annual event. Ms. Humpheries and I took the idea to the school board. We asked if we could hold a charity drive and arrange to hold it every year to recognize and honor Dale. We got approval from the local board but we also had to approach State. But they came on board quickly. Dale?s father and my father went to local merchants and asked for support from them. It was Dale?s goal to raise $50,000 for cancer Research. But I am pleased to tell you today that we raised $25,000 from local celebrities who have agreed to shave their heads here today but even more surprising is the support we got from the local student population and the teachers, especially the jocks and their coaches. I would like to tell you right now that the local student body was able to raise $35,000 for Cancer Research. You are to be commended. If I could indulge your patience for one more minute, could I ask for the cheque to be brought forward and could I ask for the three volunteers from the Cancer Society to step forward? These three ladies have volunteered their time in the library to give information to students about cancer and the effects of the disease. I would like to present this cheque to you to take back to the local chapter,? I said. Camera went off; news cameras were zooming in and out getting documentation of the event.

The three ladies stepped back and with that I walked over to the barber?s chair. I sat down in the chair. ?In remembrance of my best friend Dale. Shave me bald, please?? I said to the barber. The lady picked up a pair of clippers. She held my head straight and she plowed a strip down the center of my head. As I was being shaved, news media members came forward to take further pictures to use with their articles and news footage. I was shaved clean in five minutes flat. I did not go all the way to clean shaved. That is where my father had drawn the line. He did not mind me getting my head clipper cut but no hot lather shave.

I got up off the seat and stood at the side of the chair. My father brought me my binder. ?As I call your name, please step forward and you will be directed to a chair. But first before I call names, I am sure there is one person you would all like to see in that chair. Do you think our principal put her name in this binder?? I asked. ?Ms. Humpheries, if you put your name in this binder would you please take this chair now??

Ms. Humpheries stepped forward and she flaunted me, teasing me. I walked over to her and told her: ?Don?t you dare chicken out on me. I did it,? I said. She rubbed my head.

?Maybe I have decided I don?t want to do it now,? she said as she continued to tease me. ?I will tell you this. You looked kind of cute there in the chair.? I had my binder in my hand and I was ready to call out the next bunch of names. ?You don?t like being teased, do you?? she said as she looked at me. I shook my head. ?Okay. I will get in the chair,? she whispered in my ear.

With that she walked to the chair and she sat down. ?Number two in the chair, our principal, Ms. Humpheries,? I said. What happened next, I wish I could explain it but maybe a picture would do? (Or in this case it will give you an idea of what happened. This is NOT the actual picture. There are only two hard copies of it in circulation. And I own one of them and I choose NOT to share it with anyone.) But this will give you an idea of what happened.

Ms. Humpheries was in a thick sweater. She sat calmly in the chair. A male barber approached from one side and a lady barber approached from the opposite side. The male barber had a pair of electric clippers in his hand and he started shaving her head. The lady barbers, well, she had a pair of scissors and as she pulled forward sections of thick black hair, she cut it off and dropped it to the pavement. The lady barber was cutting Ms. Humpheries? hair very short to the scalp. Her hair was flying to the pavement. The people were beside themselves watching. Ms. Humpheries was in the chair for ten minutes before the male barber walked around to the opposite side where the lady barber had been cutting. He peeled away the remains of her work. Ms. Humpheries was down to an 1/8 of an inch all over her head. That looked good, almost appealing. I thought it was going to end there.

He grabbed a mirror and showed the reflection to Ms. Humpheries. She smiled but then she whispered something to the male barber. He nodded his head. ?Do it,? she said. The male barber walked over to one of the lady barbers and handed her a white towel. He told her what to do and she went quickly, returning with a metal pot full of hot water. The male barber took out the towel and rubbed the hot towel over Ms. Humpheries? head. He picked up a can of shaving cream and he applied a coat of white foam to her head. It took him five more minutes to complete Ms. Humpheries transformation.

Imagine!!!!!!!! My school on Monday morning would have a bald, beautiful principal and who knows? After seeing what she did, maybe some of the teachers would follow suit. Not just the ones who had already agreed to go bald. She got off the chair and ran her fingers over her head. I did too. It felt amazing. She stood beside me and we opened the binder. I looked at the twenty barbers and stylists who had come out to help us. ?Are you guys ready to do some serious cutting?? I asked. ?Here we go. When I call your name, please go to the chair that you are directed to and again thank you all for coming out today. Enjoy yourselves!? With that I read out the first twenty names.

By the end of the evening, actually around 7:15pm, the 20 barbers and stylists had gone through 50 teachers and 1500 students. Of the 50 teachers, 20 of them went totally bald. Of the 1500 students, well, the majority got short cuts but to my surprise 6 complete boy’s teams went totally bald and added to that 250 students submitted to the clippers.

I felt I had accomplished what I needed to do. I was tired and ready to go home as was Ms. Humpheries. We were in a situation where some of the other teachers had offered to volunteer their time and take care of the local celebrities, thus giving us a chance to go home and get some rest.

My father and I stayed up and watched the late news and got to see some of the details of the celebrity cutting. All in all, I was extremely pleased. And I was sure that Dale, who I know is in heaven, looked down on the entire event and he was extremely pleased with the drive.

Author?s final note: How did I know about this story and why is it so close to my heart? Before the school started the mentorship program, I was also one of the students the jocks took advantage of. I suffer due to a degenerative disease in my eyes. Maybe I was one of the only students who really got to know Dale; who understood how he was feeling. I hung out with him. We had lunch together in the cafeteria. We talked to each other about what we wanted our futures to be.

When Dale finally succumbed to his cancer in the hospital, the first two people Dale?s father called were Ms. Humpheries and my father. My father told me as soon as he got off the phone with Dale?s father. Our families had become very close through Dale?s final six months of life. My father was even instrumental in helping Dale?s father get a better job and additions to his home to help Dale deal with his sickness. Dale and I were always together in whatever school project we were given to do because we both knew that we would not be accepted by any other groups. Dale made me promise to never forget him and when he started getting sicker, he told me not to grieve for him but to work for him and for a cure and for acceptance of all handicapped people in the local school community.

I did grieve for the weekend when he died but I was back in school on Monday morning. I started talking to Ms. Humpheries about the promise I had made to Dale immediately and she got the ball rolling for us and for the library. At the student assembly that took place one week after Dale?s death, I stood on the podium with Ms. Humpheries as she spoke to the 4500 students.

Presently I am a senior in high school. My eye condition has continued to deteriorate but I am still mentoring students. My GPA is 3.96 in all my subjects and I continue to keep Dale?s dream alive by talking to radio shows and to other school boards, making the word known to people that kids with handicaps deserve to be accepted and given a chance to shine in the student population. Dale?s dream remains alive through me and through Ms. Humpheries and now a number of new friends, including those who persecuted Dale and myself in the beginning.

Author?s final comment:: Thank you very much for allowing me to share my story with you. If you wish to comment about my story or even if you want to tell me that how I feel is normal and that it is okay to let Dale?s dream live through me, I would appreciate hearing from you. If you have ever had an experience like this, I would like to hear from you, very much. Please contact me.

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