Lija Lusis had been fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma with mostly good spirits -- until she had to cut her hair.
The eighth grade student said when her hair started to fall out from chemo treatments, she asked her parents to shave her head full of brown hair. While she was smiling on the outside, she was "sobbing on the inside," she said.
"When my hair started to fall out, the cancer became real," Lusis said.
Last Friday, nearly 50 of Lusis' classmates and teachers showed their support for Lusis by cutting their own hair through "Make the Cut," a charity haircutting event held at the school.
Volunteers cut at least 8 inches of their hair, which was gathered into ponytails and cut by volunteer hair stylists to be sent to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a charity program associated with the American Cancer Society that makes wigs for cancer patients.
The event was led by cast members of Thoreau Middle School’s April musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr." and the director and drama teacher Bernie DeLeo. Lusis is performing in the production.
DeLeo said the musical is set in a time period where many of the women wore short, bob-style haircuts; the event helped the castmates and other people who volunteered explore sacrifice, along with how hair plays a role in their identities, DeLeo said.
"Can you make a sacrifice for other people that don't have any hair?" DeLeo said. "The whole point of the event was to teach these girls (and boys) about self-sacrifice. As one girl put it, 'This is so much cooler than fundraising.Anyone can knock on a door - but to give up your hair? That's really personal!' A teachable moment, right there," DeLeo said.
Other sponsors included the Parent-Teacher Association, and the Student Council Association.
For a glimpse of the event, watch the video in the media player above.
Show dates of "Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr." are April 19 to 21, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday nights and a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $5 at the door, or can be reserved at ThoreauDrama@gmail.com