Features

Whittier Christian shaves for a cause

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

Gasps and applause filled the campus of Whittier Christian High School Monday as a sophomore armed with electric shears cut locks of hair off the main official at school.

A caring crew: Whittier Christian students and faculty gather in support of Sophomore Abbey Schemmer (center with hat) who is battling cancer.  The Heralds raised more than $16,000 to help offset medical costs. To help raise awareness many of the faculty, including the head of school, shaved their heads.
A caring crew: Whittier Christian students and faculty gather in support of Sophomore Abbey Schemmer (center with hat) who is battling cancer. The Heralds raised more than $16,000 to help offset medical costs. To help raise awareness many of the faculty, including the head of school, shaved their heads.

Students gathered at lunch to watch head of school Carl Martinez, along with three other teachers, get their hair lopped off for a good cause—to help raise money and awareness for WCHS sophomore Abbey Schemmer. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012 and has since undergone numerous surgeries and treatments such as helmet therapy treatment for $22,000 a month.
Her fellow classmates created the  “Shave it for Schemmer” campaign last week to help raise money to help offset some of Schemmer’s medical costs.
“It’s really cool that they did that for me,” Schemmer said with a smile.
Students and some faculty pledged to have their hair cut as different amounts were raised. Martinez was joined Monday by teachers: Brett Esslinger, Joel Nunnally and Gary Bowman, who shaved his beard.

Martinez pledged to cut his hair if students and faculty raised $5,000.  As Martinez was having Schemmer shave his hair in front of the school, he announced they had reached more than $16,400.
“It really is amazing,” Martinez said. “And it is to help such an amazing girl.”

Gary Bowman gets his iconic goatee shaved.
Gary Bowman gets his iconic goatee shaved.

Schemmer had her first surgery to remove the tumor from the frontal lobe of her brain on Jan. 8.  The doctors were confident that they got it all, but then found another mass in her brain that would need to be removed.  The tumor was sent to the Mayo Clinic, UCSF, and finally to Johns Hopkins. The pathology report revealed that is was grade IV glioblastoma multiforme, a very aggressive form of cancer.
A week later, Shemmer was readmitted and the other mass was removed.  It was at that time that her parents were informed that she had a second cancer called primitive neuroectodermal tumor, or PNET. Found primarily in the cerebrum, this cancer spreads throughout the central nervous system. Doctors said Shemmer’s is in the lining of her brain tissue and in her spinal column, and just like the glioblastoma, it is extremely aggressive and difficult to treat.

To date, Schemmer has completed 42 consecutive days of chemotherapy, and 33 treatments of radiation to the brain with 21 treatments to the spinal column.  She still has more treatments ahead.
The campaign started last week during the school’s weekly chapel.  Schemmer’s two older brothers and three other students shaved their heads to kick off the campaign.

Abbey Schemmer shaves Head of School Carl Martinez’s hair Monday.
Abbey Schemmer shaves Head of School Carl Martinez’s hair Monday.

Three female instructors, Debra Clark, Nicole Nicolaides and Allison Kleinsasser, are next to be shorn. They pledged that they would shave their heads if funds reached $10,000.
“I really didn’t think it would get this big,” Schemmer said.  “But it did.”
Some knew it would take off.
“Abbey is such an exceptional girl who has gone through a lot,” said Katie Hunter, the college adviser at the campus. “I knew this campaign was going to raise some money to help.”

For more on Schemmer’s story, or if you would like to donate, go here

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.