CENTRAL HEIGHTS — Eighth-grader Austin Franklin spent another day in Vanderbilt Hospital’s intensive care unit Wednesday. He’s been there since doctors removed a tumor from his brain stem last week.
Back at Central School, Franklin’s classmates and some teachers spent the day showing their appreciation and support for him.
About 30 students and coaches shaved their heads during a ceremony in Franklin’s honor. And hundreds of students gathered with them to encourage and poke fun at them. Some of the participating students are in kindergarten.
Every student had to pay $1 to attend the event, which was held in the gym. Additional donations also were accepted, with all proceeds going to the Franklin family to help offset expenses.
Second-grader Drake Dorsett said he doesn’t know Austin personally, but knows he had a serious brain surgery. “That kind of thing costs a lot of money, so people need to help.”
Dorsett said he may keep his hair buzzed.
“I really like it like this,” he said. “I’ll probably keep it this way, at least this summer.”
With a student enrollment of 1,400, event organizers said it was a good opportunity to raise money and support Austin in his fight against cancer.
Unfortunately, ceremonies such as the one held Wednesday are not new at Central.
“Cancer has hit our school really hard the last several years,” said Sam Creasy, a senior who is on the school’s yearbook staff. The staff was instrumental in organizing the fundraiser.
The yearbook adviser, Tonitia Butler, had cancer several years ago. Wearing a “We Pray With Austin” T-shirt, Butler pointed to the packed gymnasium bleachers and said, “You can tell our school is very sensitive to this cause.”
Creasy is a member of the golf team with Austin. She said Austin’s diagnosis hit the team hard because golf coach Steve Mayfield has battled cancer in recent years.
“This (diagnosis) has been hard for us and really scary, but we knew we had to do something for Austin,” Creasy said.
Mayfield was among the first in the group to get his head shaved. He told the student body, “Done this before.”
Cosmetology students from instructor Kandi Cooper’s program gave the haircuts. One student participant, Tory Creasy, one of Austin’s eighth-grade classmates, had her hair cut Wednesday to donate to Locks of Love.
Austin’s grandfather, Earl Moore, also attended the event and joined the head-shaving ceremony.
After getting his head shaved, he looked to the crowd and mouthed the words “thank you.”
“I almost cried when I walked in this gym and saw all these people,” he said.
Moore said his grandson has a long road to recovery, which will include radiation treatments.
“With all these good people and their prayers, we’ll get through it,” he said.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.
‘Cancer has hit our school really hard the last several years.’
Senior at Central School