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Preparing for the cut

For 15 years, Tana Tornquist has been a spectator at the annual Bald 4 Bucks fundraiser at Rampart High School (RHS). Cheering on hundreds of students and colleagues as their heads are shaved, “is one of the most emotional experiences you can ever be a part of,” she said.

First as a parent of two RHS students and later as the school’s French teacher, Tornquist often considered participating, but couldn’t quite commit to the idea of doing it herself.

During the annual assembly, RHS students, staff members and surrounding Academy District 20 schools, volunteer to have at least 8 inches of hair cut or shave their head to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Finally in 2022, Tornquist was done being a spectator. She had decided after 15 years of watching from the sidelines, her turn in the hot seat had come.

“Watching person after person sit down while hairdressers are shaving them and their friends are surrounding them, that’s what propels you,” Tornquist explained.

The drastic change to her appearance often plagued her mind, but never completely deterred her. With every passing month over the last year, the idea of sporting no hair became easier.

“I made sure to get my passport and driver license picture updated before the event,” she said.

Yes, she’d save time in the morning and perhaps even some money on shampoo and other hair necessities, but more importantly, Tornquist was often reminded of those who suffered hair loss while battling cancer and other illnesses.

“I’m humbled by the people who don’t have a choice, whose hair falls out little by little, and they get used to it,” Tornquist said.

Hair Goes Nothing

On March 10, 2023, the Rampart High School gym came to life, filled with the sounds of razors, hair clippers, and gasps from participants witnessing their newly shaven head.

Finally, it was Tornquist’s turn to watch her long-beloved bob of hair vanish. The hairdresser carefully tied Tornquist’s hair into multiple ponytails before using a pair of scissors to chop them off.

Left only with a few inches of hair, Tornquist reveled at the sound of the razor. Her daughter Hayley, an RHS alumni and fellow participant, took the honor of shaving her mother’s head. With each pass, Tornquist’s expression shifted from smiling, to shock, and finally relief.

While the final inches of Tornquist’s hair fell to the ground, she was surrounded by dozens of students and staff members cheering her on. Onlookers shouted, “You look great!” and “I like the shape of your head!”

When she rose from her chair, a stampede of hugs enveloped Tornquist. Tears of joy filled her eyes before a look of shock stopped her mid-step.

“I don’t even know what I look like!” she gasped.

At once, Tornquist was shown a picture of her new style, causing the tears to come back. This time, they were happy tears while she admired her new buzzed cut.

A Bald Move

Returning to RHS on Monday morning came with initial nerves, but almost immediately, they were swept away with the crowd of students and staff members also sporting a new “do.”

“You feel very much a part of something,” Tornquist said. She is often reminded of a phrase Greg Andersen, a RHS teacher who helped spearhead the event often says, “It’s no big deal here at Rampart. When you see a bald head, you know why.”

The camaraderie among Bald 4 Bucks participants is obvious; they are all sporting hairless heads, but the intention of living without hair, even temporarily, isn’t lost on Tornquist.

“They are the real people who go through an illness, chemo, or something else and that’s real courage,” she said. “I did this without having to deal with life and death decisions, life and death itself.”

Together, the 2023 Bald 4 Bucks Assembly and 186 students and staff members raised $50,769.21 for LLS, making school’s total donations over 16 years, $639,404. The donations fund treatments for patients who are suffering from all forms of blood cancers.