LONDONDERRY – A packed Londonderry High School gymnasium was the venue for over 200 donations of hair that will be made into wigs for cancer patients who lose their hair due to cancer treatments.
“Welcome to the eighth annual Londonderry High School Day of Giving,” LHS English teacher Steve Juster, who coordinated the event, told those assembled Friday morning. “Pantene Beautiful Lengths is a campaign that uses donated ponytails to make free, real-hair wigs for anyone fighting cancer. The wigs are distributed through the American Cancer Society.
“There is only one way to obtain the priceless material needed to make a wig,” he continued. “Lancer Nation, it is with humility and a great pride, that I ask you to welcome to the floor your 220 Pantene Beautiful Length pledges, whom I now address as angels.”
The event opened with Kylee Quitayen singing the National Anthem and Eryk Bean playing the school fight song on bagpipes.
Juster noted that some of the donors had donated more than once during their high school years.
“Shaina Costigan – donated as a freshman, then in 10th grade her aunt Becky was diagnosed with cancer, and she was emotional and did not donate, but a month or so later went to a salon and did donate, shining a positive light on the darkness of Becky’s illness,” Juster said. “She is here again today, three years in a row.
“Three years also for Kial Keough,” he said. “I feel like I have known her forever – the cheerleader who keeps cutting her hair. The Fisher Cats had her on the air for an inning to talk about Pantene Beautiful Lengths. She has been our spokesperson.”
Juster also recognized Lancer Dancer director Melissa Hoffman for the work that she has done with the dancers, who then performed a dance called “Angel.”
Juster announced the creation of a plaque honoring retiring Assistant Principal of House 2 Art Psaledas.
“This is a unique day in Lancer Nation,” he said. “Today you see the start of a tradition.”
He asked Psaledas and LHS Principal Jason Parent to step forward. “Mr. Psaledas created the Day of Giving when your generosity exceeded our winter pep rally in scope,” Juster explained. “Emily Casey, one of our angels, put it best when she wrote, ‘I’ve never been part of such a community and organization such as LHS. The overall support and generosity I witnessed at the Day of Giving when I was an eighth grader cutting my sister’s hair was one of the most beautiful things I have ever been a part of. I knew from that day I was about to be a member of an amazing school, and Lancer Nation has proved it without a doubt. As Mr. Psaledas is retiring this year, we are establishing the Arthur Psaledas Day of Giving Special Recognition, to be given to a student who goes above and beyond the scope of giving.”
Juster said the plaque would be mounted in the main lobby of the school forever.
Juster said that each recipient will receive a plaque with a gold star on it, as Psaledas is known for quietly giving out gold stars for exceptional service to the school.
With Psaledas at center court, student Aly Aramento sang “To Sir With Love” to him.
“This means more to me than anything I’ve ever received,” Psaledas said. He said there were two main reasons he became a teacher – one was a math teacher he had in high school and the second was the movie “To Sir With Love.”
“I saw it two nights in a row and that convinced me of what I wanted to do for a living,” Psaledas said.
Juster announced the first Psaledas award winner is Caroline Muse.
“Caroline has donated her hair a few times, but this past year she distinguished herself, when a student at a school in Texas saw a picture she posted from our event, and asked her how to make it happen at their school,” Juster said. “Caroline guided her, month after month, hour after hour, through all the hurdles, detailed e-mails from the student viewpoint. A small school in Texas, was convinced, and held a school wide event – seven donors, a tradition begun. Carrie was so moved by Caroline’s efforts, that next year, Carrie will fly here to cut Caroline’s hair.
“For spreading her LHS sunshine beyond our doors, Caroline Muse is the first Arthur Psaledas Award, 2014.” Juster said.
The second winner of the award is alumna Joanna Meola.
“When we began Pantene Beautiful Lengths at our high school eight years ago, as we created the model, we knew we needed stylists to ‘finish’ the efforts on the floor,” Juster said. “People suggested getting people from a hair school – professionals would not give up their morning to come and donate their time. But I went to talk to Joanna. And she said yes. And she has been here every year since then. She has received a huge job offer that will take her from behind her chair to New York and all over as a hair and nail expert and consultant, and away from us. But we will never forget she was the first.”
UNH student and LHS alumna Myranda Brodsky committed to raising money for the American Cancer Society as well as donating her hair, and took it a step further by having her head shaved at center court for all to witness.
“Myranda, you made a decision that a grand gesture would bring about grand change,” Juster said. “You decided to donate all of your hair, at this assembly, in exchange for everyone’s small change. Myranda, the Bruins are aware of what you are doing, and center Ryan Spooner autographed a puck for you, perhaps to bite down on. Joanna and your friends will now cut the ponytails, and then clipper your hair.”
Brodsky presented members of the American Cancer Society with a check for $5,600 and then Brodsky sat smiling in the chair while her hair was cut and then shaved.
Karen Beliveau of Granite Ridge handed out $40 gift cards to the Mall of New Hampshire to 25 donors chosen at random.
“The World Champion Boston Red Sox sent along a baseball signed by Craig Breslow, who signed it before game six of the World Series, in which he pitched. I sent Jean Dempsey at Fenway our list of names and told her to pick a name and she chose Kelly Marko,” Juster said.
When the time came to cut, Psaledas was asked to do the countdown.
Three generations of one family was there to make a donation. Grandmother Nancy Huggins, known to her family as “Bubbe,” along with her daughter Shanon Gruchot and her granddaughter, ninth grader Anna Gruchot, donated their hair by cutting each other’s locks.
“This is such a great cause and it touches so many families,” Huggins said.