GENOA – A few dozen people crowded into the Genoa-Kingston High School library to cheer on those who volunteered to shave their heads in solidarity with a student recently diagnosed with cancer.
Tara Wilkins, librarian for Genoa-Kingston, helped organized a St. Baldrick’s event Thursday afternoon at the library that will go toward pediatric cancer research in honor of 16-year-old Rosalia Najera of Genoa, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is undergoing treatment.
Wilkins said this is the first St. Baldrick’s event the school has hosted. Despite planning the event in half the time the organization usually suggests, Wilkins said, she was happy with at least four people signing up to shave their heads, including Rosalia’s mother, Teresa, and volunteers raising more than $1,500 for the event so far out of a $5,000 goal.
“No matter what we do, it’s going to boost her spirits, but I wanted to make it as successful as possible,” Wilkins said.
Teresa said it felt great to shave her head for her daughter, Rosalia, and that she’s proud to be a representative for pediatric cancer awareness. She said she also helped plan the St. Baldrick’s event almost immediately after Rosalia’s diagnosis.
Teresa said Rosalia was healthy for years, but a doctor’s visit related to a leg cramp led to blood tests that said Rosalia’s white blood cells were out of whack. Eventually, doctors diagnosed Rosalia with cancer, she said.
“I was shocked,” Teresa said. “Me and her father were shocked and horrified, as anyone would be with this type of news.”
Teresa said the family now is over the shock, and they are moving forward with Rosalia’s two-year treatment plan. She said she also was grateful for a GoFundMe campaign that was started immediately after the diagnosis, which has helped the family pay for parking when they travel for Rosalia’s treatments at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
As she was watching her best friend also get her head shaved during the event, Rosalia said the event was a good experience for her. She said it’s been really cool to see so many people give her and her family so much support after her diagnosis.
“It’s been really eye-opening to see how many people would come out to do this stuff and support,” Rosalia said.