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Teacher's haircut inspires Relay for Life donations

SUGAR HILL -- One of the early highlights of the young school year at Sycamore Elementary was showcased on the school's morning news and announcements about 10 days ago.

That's when kindergarten teacher Julie Kuykendall had 12 inches of hair cut off to donate to the Locks for Love nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces for children that have lost their hair because of medical conditions. Students at the school had donated about $200 in a competition to see which teacher would get the honor of cutting the hair. Kacey Wilson's third grade class was the winner.

Kuykendall said she did it to encourage students to be aware of organizations that help other people.

"To start thinking of others, instead of just themselves," she said.

Kuykendall's haircut inspired two girls, with parental permission, and a mother to cut their hair and donate it.

That's one of several events the school has scheduled this year to contribute to Relay for Life. There was a movie night on Friday, a family kickball challenge in October and a basketball event in February.

"We're trying to really show the community that we care about these individuals that are struck by cancer," Principal Crystal Cooper Thompson said.

The school also has designated days throughout the year when students and staff wear hats, crazy socks and jeans if they make a Relay for Life donation.

Because it's been less than two weeks, Kuykendall said she's still adjusting to the short hair, and has hesitated at times when her keychain necklace wasn't caught on her hair. Cutting the long hair was something Kuykendall first thought of last fall, but put it off to setup a teaching moment for her students.

She also needed to be able to cut at least 10 inches.

Karen Peralta, a kindergarten and first grade teacher at Sycamore, coordinates Relay for Life events at the school with Kuykendall. Peralta said they're trying to teach the students about working as a community to help others.

"We have kids here who are sick and we've had staff members who have cancer, or who have family who have cancer," Peralta said. "I think they're all touched in some way, or at least the majority are."

As for the next candidate to go on school television for a haircut, Peralta said the search has begun.

"We're already excited and checking out teachers with longer hair, and maybe twist their arm in the spring," she said.