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TSS teachers lose locks for Alzheimer's

A dozen teachers volunteered to have parts of their bodies shaved to help the Thorold Secondary School’s Youth for Change Club raise funds for the Alzheimer Society

Emma Ambeau tore a strip off her teacher—literally—using Nair hair removal, on his legs.


The Grade 10 Thorold Secondary student is a member of the school’s Youth for Change Club, which raised funds for the Alzheimer Society in an unusual way.


Under the direction of teacher Courtney Gamble, the Youth For Change Club consists of about 15 students who assist a variety of charities throughout the year. This time, they asked their fellow students to contribute money to “teachers’ jars.” Once they reached the minimum limit, those participating teachers had to commit to shaving their heads, beards, arms or legs.


In the spirit of teaching by example, TSS music teacher Melinda Sayliss was the sole female volunteer, and left the school assembly with a shaved head earlier today.


“My limit is higher than the men,” she stated; “(A) bald female teacher is worth paying to see, right? I have raised my goal of $150. I promised the students I will wear different wigs next week,” she added, including a colourful clown’s wig, and various others.


Sayliss said her former music teacher has Alzheimer’s Disease, “and he was an inspiration to me. He is why I’m a music teacher.”


Studies show, she told the school assembly, that “Music has a positive influence and helps people recover memories. This is why I’m willing to shave off my hair. I volunteered because I know my hair will grow back, and his memories will not.”


Grade 12 student Lauren Mosimann spearheaded the event. “I came up with shaving the teachers,” she told ThoroldNews, “We asked each teacher if they’d be willing to have their heads shaved for $75.”


Addressing the student audience, Mosimann asked them to close their eyes, “and imagine you can’t remember who you are sitting beside. Erase the identities of everyone in the room. Imagine you’re surrounded by total strangers and can’t remember the way home.” Finally, she asked them to imagine what it’s like to be reprimanded by someone you barely recognize for something like leaving the refrigerator door open.


In total, $1,050 was raised for the Alzheimer Society, with 11 male teachers--and Sayliss--becoming bristly-bald for the cause. Some elected to have their beards shaved instead, or their arms or legs waxed, with hairdresser Devon Berry of Magicuts volunteering to perform the mass hair removal.


She started by taking just a bit off the top of each teacher, then the award-winning TSS Improv team entertained the crowd while Berry trimmed and touched up sideburns, beards and moustaches. Armed with a razor, she joked that she was fulfilling a “personal vendetta” by waxing the arms of her former math teacher, Steve Etienne.


“It tingles a little bit,” he told ThoroldNews. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s just hair. It will come back. We raised a lot of money for a little school, and Courtney deserves a lot of credit for pulling this together.”


After getting his head shaved, English teacher Sahil Dhami helped speed up the process by shaving Andrew Robertson’s head.


“It’s a small price to pay for such a good cause,” he said, “and we can show our kids that it’s nice to make a tiny little sacrifice to help out.”


“It’s better than I thought it was going to be,” Dom Faragalli said, after having his legs waxed.


Some flinched a little but all agreed it was “a worthy cause,” as John Pavone, who teaches math and French, pointed out. He added, “I would do this again.”


Science and physical education teacher Rich Searson shaved the beard he’s had “for at least five years. But I can grow it back fast,” he said. “My mom’s cousin has Alzheimer’s.”


Applause and cheers erupted when Grade 12 YFC student Jennifer Pentland introduced the brave teachers back, one by one, to the stage. Some sported rolled up pants to show off their sleeker legs while others smiled, rubbing their lighter heads.


The Alzheimer Society strives to create a community where people suffering with the disease are not marginalized, said Jessica Pace, the society’s education coordinator. She explained that “Alzheimer’s Disease is one type of dementia. There are 100-plus diseases that can affect your brain,” with Alzheimer’s Disease making up 65 per cent of those. “Just because they have changes to their brains doesn’t mean they no longer have desires and needs,” she stated. “Imagine you are sick and people say you don’t deserve leisure activities and things you enjoy, like art and exercise.”


Cassandra Best, manager of fund development for the Alzheimer Society, thanked the teachers and told students that her mom was diagnosed with dementia early, in her 50s.


“A portion of the money goes to research, and lots of it also goes to help people living with it in our community," said Best. "We do receive some base funding, but we really need our youth to step up and care about people living with dementia.”

Cathy Pelletier

About the Author: Cathy Pelletier

Cathy Pelletier is an award-winning newspaper journalist/editor who writes for
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