Monday, January 9, 2017

Purple Hair, Don't Care

This job has often times taken me out of my comfort zone. Introverted and quasi-antisocial even during my first two decades on this planet, I have been forced to become more of a social butterfly than I ever dreamed possible.

The latest leap out of my comfort zone culminated on Friday, Jan. 6, as I paid off a debt to the students of Litchfield High School.

The "before" shot.
Two months ago, I challenged the student sections of the four Montgomery County schools to raise the most money for the Montgomery County Cancer Association. There is hardly a person that hasn't been affected by cancer in some way, myself included as my Grandma Virginia has battled the cancer twice.

In return for their fundraising? I'd dye my hair the school color, a pretty big step for someone who has been some flavor of blonde/brown (and even some gray now) for his entire 35 years.

Tina just starting to color Kyle's hair.
With a deadline of Dec. 16, the students of Hillsboro, Litchfield, Lincolnwood and Nokomis jumped at the opportunity to see me sporting a new color scheme, raising close to $3,000 for the MCCA.

Sporting a "new do."
The response continues to overwhelm me long after the donation period has finished. The creativity, compassion and enthusiasm of the students, the teachers and the administrators of these schools has been amazing.

I'd like to particularly thank Lincolnwood Athletic Director Josh Stone, who printed out a large (and I mean LARGE) photoshopped poster of me with orange hair. Litchfield Athletic Director Pat Reents and Coach Jason Cooper were also big parts of the drive at Litchfield, which raised more than $1,300. The Panthers even had a side challenge, hoping to cut student John Kim's flowing locks if they raised $2,000.

Showing off the new look at the game.
Nokomis Principal Rachelle McDowell, Hillsboro Athletic Director Joe Vanzo and Hillsboro Principal Janet Ward also lent their support, with Mrs. Ward suggesting that next year I become a male cheerleader for the winning school.

It's a great idea, but it's not going to happen. The only "grace" I have shares my last name and I would hate to degrade the efforts of the county's cheerleaders by having me perform with them. Also I look terrible in spandex.

Grace wore one orange pig tail and one purple pigtail to support both our local teams.
That brings me back to Friday, where I was able to debut my new look, expertly given to me by Tina Leefers, at the Litchfield/Hillsboro boys basketball game.

I received a lot of odd looks, but even more positive comments, which helped ease my nervousness about looking like a cross between a Batman villain and the bass player for a Green Day cover band.
Having my beautiful wife Mary and our daughter Grace, who sported one purple pig tail and one orange pig tail to show support to our local teams, with me also really helped.

Ultimately, all of the questions and strange looks are completely worth it. The fundraising contest not only raised a lot of money for a good cause, but it also helped encourage students to recognize that there are a lot of things out there in the world that are bigger than what goes on in the walls of there school.

Family photo opportunity at the game.
My hair will fade eventually, but the impact the students made won't. My wife and I know what a great place Montgomery County is. We've seen it first hand through the love and support of our community for Grace and her battle with Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy. To think that this project may have helped foster the next generation of the generous citizens of Montgomery County makes me excited for the future, no matter what tough times may come.

Hopefully I can come up with another idea that the students will take to even more next year. If anyone has any ideas for next year's challenge, you can send them to me at Except for you Mrs. Ward.


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