For Trinity students showing support for classmate, bald truly is beautiful
MANCHESTER -- Carmen Giampetruzzi, Trinity High School's star quarterback, has thick black locks that undoubtedly cause hair envy among many, but that didn't stop him from gladly sitting down in a metal folding chair and having Dean of Students Patrick Smith shave it all off.
Giampetruzzi is one of 36 students and eight faculty members who shaved their heads this week, all to show their support for sophomore Matthew Lemire, 15, who in November was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He only returned to school on Monday, after treatment that included surgery and rounds of chemotherapy. But Wednesday, he received the great news that he is cancer free.
"I love it," he said, as the buzzing trimmer sheared off Giampetruzzi's thick mane. Lemire, who is bald because of the medical treatment he underwent at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, was smiling but his eyes filled up with tears.
"I appreciate everything everyone's doing to help me get through this," said Lemire. "It's made it a little easier."
Smith had great fun shaving the heads of the students, joking that the clippers had just broke and he couldn't finish shaving Giampetruzzi's head when it was only about an eighth done.
"Did you give your mum the heads up this was coming?" Smith asked as he continued with the trimming. "No," he replied.
As the last of Giampetruzzi's locks hit the gym floor, the 38 students, faculty members and Lemire's parents — Kelly and Paul — arrived to pose for photos and celebrate Lemire's return.
"Oh, my gosh, that is so darn cute," Kelly Lemire said as her son was surrounded by his Trinity High School family, all with the their bald heads bowed. Two students, front and center, went down on all fours, and posed bald head to bald head.
"He held us together since the beginning," Kelly Lemire said. "He countered sadness with laughter."
Lemire plays on the school's baseball team, whose head coach is his father. Many of the students who shaved their heads are fellow athletes like Giampetruzzi, who also plays basketball and baseball.
The idea to shave their heads in support of the easy-going Lemire began with his good friend, Richard Brewitt, 16, also a sophomore, and other close friends Jack DiZillo, Andy LaFlamme and Shaun de Jong.
Brewitt said it was early last November when Lemire went home sick from school. Soon after, he said, Lemire texted him that he had cancer.
Brewitt was stunned.
"It's one thing you never expect," he said.
Lemire said that within a couple of days he underwent surgery and about two weeks later, his chemotherapy began and ultimately he lost all his hair.
Denise Brewitt, an academic coach in the guidance office and Brewitt's mother, said Lemire has handled his illness with "much grace and humor. If anything, it has been educational for the whole school as well."
She described Lemire as someone with a contagious personality who is always happy.
Brewitt said he and Lemire's other friends wanted to do something to help him through the crisis and to show him he had their support. They came up with the idea of shaving their heads and expected about 10 people would do it. When word got out, students who didn't even know Lemire wanted to do it as well.
"It just grew and grew," said Brewitt. "It's been awesome."
Trinity has 442 students — 50 percent boys, 50 percent girls — so nearly 20 percent of the boys volunteered to have their heads shaved.
The first under the trimmer was Smith, who was aided by his wife and then Brewitt.
On Thursday, the last of the students lined up in the gymnasium as Smith deftly handled the buzzing trimmer.
"My parents went to Trinity with his parents and I was on the baseball team with him," said junior Colby Fortin as his hair was being removed. "It's supporting Matt, giving him the Trinity support. We're all like family here."
Smith said it's been like boot camp with one student after another taking the seat in the gymnasium and becoming hairless in about five minutes flat.
Zach Szczechowicz, 18, a senior who plays soccer and baseball, was fine with getting a free haircut. But he cautioned Smith to keep the trimmer away from his beard.
"Oh, wait, I changed by mind," he joked just as Smith ran the trimmer down the top of his head. He didn't tell his mother either that he was going with a new hairstyle.
So some of the moms may be shocked at their sons' new looks, but undoubtedly they will beam with pride at their children's thoughtfulness.