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Evergreen Park schools take part in ‘Big Shave’ to fight childhood cancer

joshue honored photo 4 4 Photo by Kelly White

The Andrew Weishar Foundation presented Josue Hernandez with a gift to help provide support and financial relief to him and his family, while he receives treatment at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn. The gift was given during Northwest Elementary School’s “Big Shave” event on March 15.

By Kelly White

Josue Hernandez is described as fun-loving, happy kid by those who know and love him.

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the right femur on May 15, 2018, the 12-year-old from Chicago who had his right leg amputated refuses to allow cancer to slow him down.

“He has such a positive mental attitude and has a great spirit, very optimistic, very happy,” Josue’s mother, Silvia Calderon, said about her son.

Students from Evergreen Park School District 124 stepped up to cancer by shaving their heads in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and children like Josue.

On Friday, March 15, the district’s Northwest and Southwest elementary schools participated in the “Big Shave” for the 11th straight year at Northwest, 3630 W. 92nd St., and for the 10th year in a row at Southwest, 9900 S. Central Park Ave.

“It is amazing to see a community stand behind such an important cause,” said Dr. Matthew Banach, principal at Northwest School. “Our students are already finding ways to sacrifice for the benefit of others.”

Josue agreed.

“Events like this make me so happy,” he said.

Central Middle School, located at 9400 S. Sawyer Ave, Evergreen Park, took on the challenge on Friday, March 22 for its eighth year. More than 20 students participated at each the district schools involved in the event. The number of participants grows larger every year, according to district officials.

Parents, grandparents, and school staff members also participate in on the fun, including Pat Cronin, media aide at Northwest School, who had her head shaved by Banach.

Cronin serves as the event chairperson for Northwest, with Pat Coci as chairperson for Central Middle School, and Jeannie Olson for chairperson of Southwest.

“This event is unique in that it helps raise kids’ awareness about cancer, empathy and helping others,” Cronin said. “Our event also establishes a sense of community, since we have students, staff, family and community members getting their heads shaved. When we are honoring a child who is undergoing treatment and that child is able to attend our event I think it gives our students a greater understanding of what kids go through when they have been diagnosed with cancer.”

This is the ninth year Cronin has had her head shaved.

Her decision to do so began in 2010 when her son’s friend, Andrew Weishar, 19, was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was at this time that Jessica O’Neill, a Northwest kindergarten student during the 2010-2011 school year, was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumor the spring before she started school, and Michael Brady, a family friend’s 3-year-old, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

With this onset of terrible events in Cronin’s life, she decided to help.

“I chose to have my head shaved and donate my hair to honor children who are undergoing cancer treatment,” Cronin said.

During Cronin’s first head shave, both Weishar and O’Neill attended and helped to shave Cronin’s head.

In memory of Weishar, who lost his battle to cancer in October of 2012, the Andrew Weishar Foundation was established in 2013 to honor his memory. Its mission is to help others to live with faith, courage, and strength and to ease the financial burden of medical treatment.

This year, members of the Andrew Weishar Foundation attended the Northwest School’s “Big Shave”. It was at the event where they chose to present Josue with a special donation. The generous gift will help provide support and financial relief to him and his family, while he receives treatment at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.

“We are so honored to be chosen,” said Josue’s mother, Silvia Calderon.

Last year, the three schools combined raised more than $50,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a not-for-profit organization which raises money to fund childhood cancer research. This year will not be any different, according to district officials.

For the 2019 event, Northwest raised a total $12,246.17, Southwest raised $27,412.12, and Central Middle School raised $3,373..

“We are proud to stand in unity as a part of the Chicago Area Schools St Baldrick challenge,” said Jeannie Olson, chairperson of Southwest. “Our kids stand together to show other kids that they are not alone. We take pride in helping to raise funds for the much needed research to find a cure.”

Central Middle School added in a kick of even more fun with pie in the face to school officials, Green River Floats, and ticket raffle for Chicago Bulls tickets.

“This is always such an awesome time,” said Coci.

Students within the district had just as much fun, including Northwest student Sebastian Murphy.

“I want to make a difference and help others,” said Sebastian 7, of Evergreen Park.

His classmates agreed.

“I’m very happy to be able to help other people who are living with cancer in any way that I can,” said Mario Suplessis, 9, of Evergreen Park, and a Northwest student.

“Support for St. Baldrick’s and childhood cancer research is an important part of the culture of Evergreen Park and District 124,” said Dr. Robert Machak, superintendent of Evergreen Park School District 124.“Our students are amazing; they are very cognizant that there is a world beyond their neighborhoods and their schools.They are always looking for real ways to make a difference. Sometimes that difference involves raising money, sometimes it involves raising awareness, and sometimes it involves a gesture that tells somebody who’s hurting, ‘you are not alone’. Our students are such good people, so kind, so caring. I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished across our community for St. Baldrick’s.”

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