Locks of Love: North Rowan Elementary students, staff cut hair for cancer charity
SPENCER — Mitzi Rusher and Erika Johnston, teachers at North Rowan Elementary, know what cancer can do to a family.
“Her grandmother is fighting cancer, and so is my mother,” Rusher said.
Many of their fellow teachers, and the students themselves, have had brushes with cancer.
For months, some of them have been growing their hair so they could have it cut and donated to Locks of Love, the charity that uses donated hair to create wigs for cancer patients who’ve lost theirs.
“Our hearts are really into it,” Rusher said.
As she spoke of her mother’s struggle with cancer, she stopped to fight back tears.
“It’s just such an outpouring of support for those of us affected by cancer,” Rusher said. “Wonderful, it’s wonderful.”
A total of 20 students and staff volunteered to donate their locks of hair.
During two separate assemblies, many students and staff had a chance to see the donations taking place.
Male and female, kids and adults, volunteers were called up to seats on the stage, where their hair was measured and snipped by volunteers from Hair Associates of Salisbury.
“We have a record-breaker here today!” said teacher Leia DeWald, acting as host, as second-grader Zoe Miller walked up to the stage to get her hair cut.
Miller, 8, had 16 inches of hair donated.
Her mom, Felicia Layton, looked on from the foot of the stage. She said her daughter already knew about Locks of Love.
Layton said she donated 22 inches of her own hair last summer.
“I’m proud, I’ve been crying,” Layton said. “She made this decision on her own, came home and told me she was going to do it.”
Mandi Stoyanov, a third-grader, also had a personal reason to donate.
“Well, my Mom’s mom, she died from cancer, and I never did get to meet her,” said Stoyanov, 9.
“And my Mom’s best friend and my aunt died from cancer.”
She said she decided to donate her hair in their memory.
For those who’ll receive wigs made from her hair, “I hope they just get better,” Stoyanov said, “and grow hair back. And I hope they feel better.”
Student teacher Casey Baucom, a senior at Catawba College, has been working with Rusher.
“In the past few months, I’ve known what it is to know someone whose life has been affected by cancer,” Baucom said.
She said her boyfriend’s father died as a result of cancer in December.
That inspired her to grow her own hair longer for Locks of Love.
As for Rusher and Johnston, their hair was cut by the women whose survival stories inspired them: Rusher’s mother, Peggy, and Barbara Hamilton, better known to Johnston as “Mimi.”
Both got loud applause and cheers as they ascended the stage.
Hamilton took the microphone and told the crowd why she was wearing a paper surgical mask.
“I just took a treatment for cancer,” she said.
“And I intend to kick cancer’s butt, too,” Hamilton added, garnering cheers and applause.
When Peggy Rusher finished cutting daughter Mitzi’s hair, they embraced. “That was for you, Mom!” Mitzi said.
“It’s just marvelous the way people support us,” Peggy Rusher told the Post. “I’ve had nothing but support, and that’s what gets you through.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.