BETHEL, Conn. -- Right in front of their eyes, the entire student body and staff at Bethel High School watched and cheered as principal Chris Troetti — as well as two Bethel teachers — went bald.
The head-shaving event was part of a schoolwide effort to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer. It was organized by cancer survivor Emma Fagan, 17, for her senior project .
Troetti's feelings about his new look?“It’s fine. I don’t even think about it," he said in a follow-up phone call.
“I think my mother was more shocked was by it,” he chuckled. “I don’t think I've ever had my hair this short.”
Emma said she's in awe of how much the school raised — in total, over $7,511 — far surpassing her initial goal of $2,000. “Since childhood cancer is so significant in our town, it really meant a lot seeing everyone come together to raise this money," she said.
Aside from Troetti, Ray Turek, science department chairman, and Richard Baumer, a music teacher, also had their hair shaved off.
Students assisted with the shaving, which was performed by hairdressers from Escape Salon and Spa in Bethel.
Several weeks ago, as part of her project, Emma organized two teams -- one of students and the other of staff.
The team that raised the most money got to watch as opposing team members had their heads shaved. The student team won — and the teachers faced the buzz.
As part of her project, Emma set up a donation page with the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity that works to research cures for childhood cancers.The money raised from both teams was donated to the foundation.
Emma's project pays tribute to her late boyfriend Thomas Fritch, a Bethel resident who passed away in 2013 at the age of 14 from Ewing’s sarcoma.
In 2011, Emma herself was diagnosed with cancer -- non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Since completing chemotherapy, she has since been cancer-free.
“I know this would make Thomas happy, and although I wish he was there with me, I know he was looking down," she said. "I hope this inspired more students and staff to help raise childhood cancer awareness.”
Troetti said it was an honor to work with Emma because she had been through so much. “It was such a tribute to Thomas to bring the whole school and community together the way she did,” he said.
“What’s special about Bethel is we always come together to support those in need," he said. "We work really hard to teach our kids the importance of this and the kids step to the plate and do whatever they can to support anyone who needs anything."
Troetti said Bethel High School currently enrolls five cancer survivors. “Not too many people know unless they are in their class, what those kids have been through," he said. "This is a good way to highlight that whenever we think life is really difficult, there is always someone who may be suffering quietly next to us."