METUCHEN, NJ - During Saint Joseph High School’s recent Winter Sports Pep Rally, members of the student body volunteered not only their time but also their hair for a classmate and for peers across the country. Students raised over $20,000 and shaved their heads for Saint Baldrick’s, an organization that aids children who have been diagnosed with all forms of cancer.
The event was inspired by junior Matthew Hall, a Clark native. After suffering from severe back pain in early October, Matt’s family took him to the hospital where it was discovered that he had Burkitt Lymphoma. Luckily, it was diagnosed in its early stages, but immediate treatment was required. Since then, Matt has been recovering at home from his treatments, which is why the Student Council decided to reach out to him.
“I thought it was important that we do the event bigger due to Matt’s oncology group getting funding from the donations through St. Baldrick’s,” Student Council Moderator and World Languages teacher Tracy Uler said. “St. Baldrick’s Day has always been an event run by the student council, but considering he was one of our officers, it hit especially close to home. We knew we needed to make it special.”
Over thirty students from all grade levels participated in the head shaving. Students raised money in several ways, namely email campaigns and personal requests. Matt’s brother, Jack, a sophomore, raised the most out of the students with over $2,300, but he was just one of the many student campus ministers represented. Senior Tomasz Kasztelan, who joined Campus Ministry with Matt two years ago, saw shaving his head as a way of displaying solidarity with his spiritual brother.
“I wanted to show Matt that he is not in this fight alone,” Kasztelan said, “and shaving my head with the other volunteers was the perfect way to show my support for him and his family. I was nervous, but seeing all of my friends with me there gave me the same feeling that I hope Matt sensed through our actions.”
While the long term plan is for Matt to return as a student in full health, the school has made accommodations to allow him to continue his education in the near future. Matt controls a VGo robot which he can drive around campus so that he can attend classes from home. It was through this medium that Matt was able to attend the pep rally and to see a heartwarming video created in his honor by his friend and Junior Class President Conor Quigley.
The money raised was a great show of what the community is capable of, but it was the outpouring of personal support for Matt that has had the biggest impact on him. Quigley, who also shaved his head during the event, has been in constant contact with his friend and vice president throughout Matt’s courageous battle.
“Knowing there were so many people who care about him made him feel more positive about himself, especially now that he’s not the only one without hair,” Quigley said. “He said that it’s the brotherhood that keeps him strong, and he knows he’s going to overcome this and return to his normal life. He was even nominated as a captain for cross country for next year, so he has a lot to look forward to when he returns.”
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