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Dakota Ridge students, teachers shed locks for cancer fund-raiser

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By AJ Vicens

Locks of all colors hit the gym floor at Dakota Ridge High School on May 2, as nearly two dozen students and teachers had their heads shaved to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

"How many people think Dr. Jelinek would look good with a pink mohawk?" yelled math teacher Nick Cummings, a 1998 Dakota Ridge graduate. The packed gym went wild.

Principal Jim Jelinek and Cummings walked out of the room with mohawks, but the other 19 whose heads were shaved walked out completely bald.

Raffle tickets, sold at $5 a piece, allowed students to take a turn with the clippers on the students' and teachers' heads. The raffle — along with donations from a handful of local businesses — raised $9,472.20 this year, bringing the two-year total to $17,886.22. That is eerily close to the new number of cancer cases reported in Colorado in 2007, which came in at 19,190, according to the American Cancer Society.

Cummings asked the hundreds of students in the gym to stand up if they knew someone affected by cancer; the majority of the students stood.

One of their own is winning the battle against cancer, and she wanted to thank her classmates.

"You have to support other people," said Rebecca Torres, a 16-year-old sophomore. Torres told her classmates through tears that she was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after her 15th birthday, but the cancer is now in remission. She was quickly overcome with emotion, and the students in the gym gave her a standing ovation.

After the event, Torres said she went public with her story to show that cancer can strike anyone at any time.

"It makes me feel good because I know it's a good cause," Torres said, holding a bouquet of flowers given to her after her speech. "I normally don't like telling the story, but I decided to when people said we were doing this for a dumb reason. I wanted to prove them wrong."

Many credited senior Eric Miller, the student body co-president, for coordinating the event.

"Eric Miller made sure we got enough funds," said Cummings, sporting a puffy mohawk. "A lot of local businesses stepped up, but Eric did an outstanding job. He is the epitome of this school."

Cummings added that a lot of his students encouraged him to shave his head last year, but he couldn't because he was in a wedding. But this year he "succumbed to the pressure."

"I feel like an idiot," Cummings said, pointing to his new ‘do. "But I know it's for a good cause."

Jelinek was also excited about the outcome.

"I think this is fantastic," said Jelinek, also sporting a new mohawk. "It's especially great because it's for a good cause. Eric has done a great job. I want to do anything to support these people. But props to Eric — talk about leaving a positive legacy."

Miller deflected the praise, saying he was one of a team on student government that pulled the event together.

"I guess it takes one to spark an idea, but this is a case of an entire community coming together," Miller said.

Miller — who shed a couple inches and a fair amount of weight when his bushy mop was shaved to the scalp — was "ecstatic" with the turnout and the money raised.

Amy Richardson, a Relay for Life director at the American Cancer Society, said the money would go toward the society and the overall goal of eliminating cancer.

"I'm blown away," Richardson said. "It was incredible."

Miller praised the community for putting money toward a good cause, and added that his haircut was probably a good thing.

"It's a lot lighter, but it's good," Miller said. "But, with summer coming, it's the perfect season for this."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.