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Barbers arrive to shave the heads of teachers, staff members after Willmar Middle School students raise $1,600 to support classmate

Posy Chheng, right, shaves Tyler Steen’s head on Monday at the Willmar Middle School after students at the school raised $1,600 for Mackanzie Chan, a fellow student who is undergoing treatment for cancer. Pep’s Barber Shop staff shaved the heads of eight teachers and school staff members Monday in a show of solidarity with Chan. Chan family members also joined in. (Tribune photo by Kyle Rozendaal)1 / 2
Mackanzie Chan’s older brother Daniel, left, has his head shaved Monday along with Willmar Middle School teacher Mike Dokkebakken in support of a student fundraiser for Mackanzie, who is undergoing treatment for cancer. In the background is Steve Peppin, owner of Pep’s Barber Shop, one of the barbers who provided their services Monday. (Tribune photo by Kyle Rozendaal)2 / 2

By Kyle Rozendaal

WILLMAR — As the school year came to a close, final assignments were turned in and middle school students were making plans for summer vacation, the Willmar Middle School student body also managed to raise $1,600 for a classmate who was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year.

Mackanzie Chan was diagnosed with malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, a cancer that attaches itself to the casing around nerves. By the time the doctors at the University of Minnesota clinic had found the cancerous tumor, it had already spread into her lymph nodes. Chan started chemotherapy after surgery and ended up losing her hair.

The Willmar Middle School responded by designing a fundraiser to help the Chan family pay for the treatments. The original idea was to have the different grades compete to see who could raise the most money and the winning class would shave the heads of teachers.

“I was expecting maybe $500,” said middle school counselor Jeff Winter. “But it has been incredible to see the kids come together as a community to support Mackanzie and her family.”

When the collection went far beyond original expectations, the prize for winning had to be changed. Rather than have the students shave the heads, Pep’s Barber Shop came in to shave the heads of eight teachers and staff — as requested by the students — in front of the entire student body.

The Chan family was present to have their heads shaved and to collect Mackanzie’s yearbook that friends had passed around and signed for her.

As Doug Chan, Mackanzie’s father, was leaving the building, students were still approaching him with gifts to help Mackanzie. “We want to say thank you to all the staff, teachers, and students who helped do this for us,” said Doug Chan. “Everything that everyone has done means more to us than any words could ever express.”