Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get scared.
It means you don’t give up.
Green High School junior Ben Ladich, 17, is the definition of courage. The smile on his face, the strength is step and the brightness in his smile are all proof of just how courageous he is.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January, Ben had learned to summon the kind of courage that most students his age never have to find. But every day he walks a little taller, smiles a little brighter and laughs a little harder because he knows this disease isn’t going to beat him.
“It was hard,” Ben said of the moment he was diagnosed. “I knew I could beat it, though. I’m young and I have a lot of time in my life left to go; It’s not going to be done at 17.”
As Ben finds the courage to keep fighting, his friends and classmates are proving they are ready to support him any way he needs. Even if it means shaving their heads to prove how much they care.
During lunch periods Friday, Green High School students could pay $5 to have their heads shaved or get their hair spray-painted with bright, washable hair spray. It was designed as a way for the students and teachers to show they are behind Ben as he battles cancer. It was also a chance to raise funds for Project Ed Bear which supports pediatric oncology patients throughout northeast Ohio. It’s a program that played a significant supporting role for Ben.
One by one, dozens of Green High School students fished $5 bills out of their wallets and purses. Settling into the chairs set up under a bright blue tent just outside the cafeteria doors they readied themselves for brand new looks – bright blue mohawks or streaks of neon green in long blonde hair.
“I think this speaks volumes about the character of the kids,” teacher Bill Bridenthal said as he watched a volunteer Signature Hair Salon slide the clippers over one student’s head. “Some of them are nervous about it, but at the end of the day they do it because they know it’s for charity, for a fallen classmate in need.”
As part of the fundraising effort, students could also purchase $10 “Team Ben” T-shirts. Through the T-shirt sales along the students and staff at Green raised more than $3,000.
Freshman Chris Brazie tried to look confident.
He sat in one of the chairs under the blue tent and held his head steady as the clippers buzzed and slipped through his long hair.
“I’ve never seen my brother with his hair this short in six years,” Chris’ older brother, junior Paul Brazie told the group of friends who gathered to watch, photograph and video Chris’ big moment. With a smile Paul added, “ … I think he gave in to the peer pressure, but that’s OK in this case. It’s for a good cause.”
Page 2 of 2 - Six-inch locks of hair fell to the ground at Chris’ feet as friends assured him his new look – a short, bright blue mohawk – looked “really good.”
“My head feels light now,” Chris said, a bit of uncertainty in his voice. “I’m not sure I like this.”
Paul smiled and admitted that if anyone would be shocked by his brother’s decision to cut his hair, it would be his parents for sure.
“My mom might cry,” Paul said with a laugh. “My dad will be proud, though.”
In order to have their heads shaved, students under the age of 18 had to return signed permission slips. Otherwise they could only have the washable paint applied to their locks.
Sixteen-year-old Calah Lawson held tight to her signed permission slip and confidently slid into the chair to have a portion of her head shaved in Ben’s honor. The result was a trendy, funky look that she pulled off easily.
“It took a couple of weeks to convince myself to do this,” Lawson said, adding with a small smile that she “officially decided” to go with her new hairstyle just the day before. “My dad probably won’t appreciate it, but my mom gave me permission.”
For Lawson, the chance to update her look was also a chance to show just how much she cares about her classmate.
“I think it’s really nice that we can do this to help out,” Lawson said.
Reach Erin at 330-899-2872 or Erin.Pustay@TheSuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @epustayBURB