Some women would be horrified to see tufts of their own hair floating to the floor. But on this day, Erin Anderson didn’t mind a bit.
All around the Chaparral High School science teacher, heads were being shaved right down to the scalp. It was a heartwarming display of camaraderie May 22 from her colleagues and friends. Anderson has needed every ounce of strength and support given to her since her 2-year-old daughter, Haven, was diagnosed with stage-4 neuroblastoma in mid-April.
Haven began complaining of stomach pains and doctors quickly discovered a mass in her abdomen. Anderson took an immediate leave of absence to care for Haven and see her through aggressive treatment sessions. But even though she left the school, the school never left her.
Word began to spread around Chaparral about a fundraising campaign to help the Anderson family pay the accumulating medical bills. To date, more than $22,000 has been raised, a good portion through the “Shavin’ for Haven” event, which had 18 male teachers and four female teachers, including Anderson, shaving their heads in support of the cause.
Anderson described the community support as “overwhelming” and said the enormous amount of positivity has provided a much-needed boost to the family during a trying time. Haven’s older brothers, Cash and Ryder, have been keeping Haven’s spirits up as she fights a disease that only affects an estimated 600 children per year. The diagnosis “blindsided” the mother of three.
“You don’t ever think your children are going to get cancer,” she said.
Cheri Whipple, an administrative assistant in Chaparral’s athletics department, said every teacher and more than half of the students have gotten involved in the effort. Whipple recruited a friend who is a hairstylist, and she brought three more stylists to the shaving event. The fundraising campaign has snowballed and people who don’t know Anderson have joined in.
Whipple said the display is typical of Chaparral, which has rallied behind several important causes over the years. She said Anderson has been brave in the face of adversity.
“It’s difficult to watch her go through this,” Whipple said. “It takes it to a different level when you have a child.”
Haven is doing well after returning home from the hospital May 19 following her first chemotherapy treatment. Anderson said the procedures have been “frightening” and she is “still processing everything that has gone on.” When she found out that 20 people were planning to shave their heads to support Haven, she volunteered to do the same.
“We feel so blessed,” she said. “They’re more than colleagues. They’ve become our family.”
Haven has a long road of treatment ahead and Anderson said experimental procedures are a possibility. The fact that people have banded together to raise money for their young girl is something the family will never forget.
“Whatever comes about in the future, that money will help us treat her,” she said.
For more information about helping Haven’s cause, call Chaparral at 303-387-3500.