BETHEL, Conn. -- For her senior project, 17-year-old Bethel High student and cancer survivor Emma Fagan has chosen a cause that's close to her heart — she has organized a school-wide event to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer.
The fundraiser pays tribute to Emma’s late boyfriend Thomas Fritch, a Bethel resident who passed away in 2013 at the age of 14 from Ewing’s sarcoma.
For her project, she has organized two teams -- one made up of BHS students and one made up of BHS staff -- who are competing to raise money to fight childhood cancer research.
The team that raises the most money gets to watch as opposing team members have their heads shaved.
The money raised from both teams will be donated to the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity that works to find cures for childhood cancers.
As part of her project, Emma has set up a donation page with the St. Baldrick's Foundation. So far, the page has raised $1,505 out of a goal of $2,000.
The competition comes to a climax on Dec. 6, when the team that comes in second will have their heads shaved at Bethel High School.
Four teachers, including BHS principal Christopher Troetti, make up the staff team. About 10 students make up the student team.
Also, at lunch every day, Emma has organized a schedule of student volunteers who man a table, selling ribbons and bracelets from St. Baldrick's,
Proceeds from the sale of the items, which cost $1 each, go toward St. Baldrick's. “In two days, we raised about $80," she said.
The story behind Emma's project began in 2011, when, at the age of 11, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Since completing chemotherapy, she has been cancer-free.
When Emma heard that Thomas, who was in her grade at Bethel Middle school had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone cancer, “I reached out to him. We quickly became close friends and then started dating,” Emma said.
While Thomas’ cancer went into remission for a short period of time, it came back and he died in 2013.
“Thomas was really funny and always had such a good attitude and spirit despite everything he was going through," Emma said. "We were each other’s support systems since we both understood what each other was going through."
Since Thomas’ death, Emma has remained close to his family.
The Bethel High senior project, called a Capstone Project, must impact the community in a positive way. “Ever since I was a sophomore, I knew I wanted to make my project in honor of Thomas,” she said.
“Everyone wants to see Mr. Troetti get his head shaved,” she said. “He has always been really big on the fundraisers.
“I’m really happy with both the staff and student participation in this,” Emma said. “It’s nice to see everyone come together for this one cause.”
To donate to the BHS Student Team or the BHS Staff Team, click here .