Fairfield teacher honors Kyler Bradley by shaving head

Students, teachers and other faculty at Fairfield Intermediate School went all out Friday to show their support for Kyler Bradley, a fifth-grader battling a rare form of pediatric brain cancer.

The key message they wanted to convey to Kyler: “We believe in miracles.”

Some students and teachers wore “Kyler Strong” T-shirts, while others sported wild and crazy hairstyles or had their hair sprayed wacky colors as a sign of solidarity with Kyler. Olivia Lunt, a sixth-grader, said her mom helped her with her crazy hairdo.

“I think that if we all support Kyler, miracles do happen,” Olivia said. “If we all support him, God has to listen.”

Lyndsay Begley, a six-grader, said she didn’t know Kyler personally, but still wanted to show her support.

“I know how hard it is for him to go through this, and I just wanted to support him,” Lyndsay said. “I’m praying for you (Kyler), and I believe in miracles for you.”

Robyn Rothring, a fifth- and sixth-grade ESL tutor, let Ed Assistant Carol Fuller shave her head to help raise awareness for pediatric cancer. It was her seventh time shaving her head in honor of kids with cancer.

“It’s just awesome. It’s so empowering to be a part of something bigger and better than yourself,” said Rothring, who let students write their names on her head with a permanent marker once the cutting was complete. “I just wanted to do something to help raise awareness. I like giving back, and this seems like an easy way to do it. The kids are my heroes, and it’s the least I can do to show a little support and solidarity for them.”

Rothring said Kyler is in the hearts and minds of everyone at the school every day. “Go Kyler! Kyler Strong,” she said.

Kyler, 10, was diagnosed on Oct. 16 with the inoperable brain cancer diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, commonly known as DIPG. This is the same pediatric cancer that struck Mount St. Joseph basketball player Lauren Hill, who died in April at 19 years old after battling the disease.

The cancer has devastated Kyler’s body in a short period of time. He became wheelchair-bound in less than 10 days from his diagnosis as the tumor attacked his brain stems, weakening his nervous system’s functions. The right side of his body is immobile.

As Kyler’s story has gone worldwide, support for his family has poured in. The GoFundMe account for Kyler has exceeded $84,800 from donations made by more than 2,000 people as of this morning. Scores of “Kyler Strong” T-shirts have been sold. And author Sarah Curry Rathel is selling copies of her book, “There’s Something Different About My Hair,” through the school and donating 90 percent of the proceeds to Kyler’s family and the other 10 percent to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Rathel, who is Kyler’s neighbor, visited Fairfield Intermediate School and read her book to about 40 students, including those in Kyler’s homeroom taught by Amy Center and Leigh Terry. She said it was a “no-brainer” to work with the school to help bring about awareness and raise money for Kyler.

“One of the main things I see when you are working with children who are sick is that you don’t want them to feel alone. Especially kids that are growing up, this is a hard time in general and to be going through this (cancer),” Rathel said. “When they are alone and away from their classmates, they just kind of feel left out. That’s why the school doing this and taking pictures and sending them to him is so important.

“It’s like I told the kids, we can’t change what he’s going through, but we can definitely support him and make sure he doesn’t feel alone,” she said.

Ironically, one of the students listening to Rathel read was 12-year-old Xander Jared, who recently returned to school after his own battle with a form of brain cancer, too. His teacher said he’s back in class now and doing well after some good scans. Xander held the book and showed the illustrations to the class while Rathel read it.

Assistant Principal Missy Muller said the outpouring of support for Kyler has been tremendous.

“Everybody wanted to do something,” she said. “We told people he liked Pokemon and we have gotten about 500 Pokemon cards donated. The outpouring from the kids is amazing.”

The school is sending videos and pictures to Kyler and his family at the hospital to let them be part of the day.

(Staff Writer Michael Pitman contributed to this report.)

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