A principal came up with a heartwarming way to support a pupil whose grandpa is battling cancer .
Eleven-year-old Jackson Johnston chopped off his long, shaggy blonde locks on Sunday for his Papa Rick, who had recently lost his hair to Mantle cell lymphoma.
But when the youngster went to school the next day pupils called him “baldy” and shouted: “you look like a cancer patient” and “why would you want a cancer patient’s haircut?”
Jackson’s mum Amber Johnston says he came home very upset that evening, so she decided to call the school head Tim Hadley about the cruel taunts .
When the Pekin Middle School principal Tim Hadley heard about the bullying he decided there was only one way to take action – shave his own head.
Mr Hadley told The Des Moines Register : “We take the issue of bullying seriously, but I thought if you believe in something, you have to find a way to stand up and literally show your support.
“So I was lying in bed and I thought maybe I will get a hold of his mom and ask her to send those clippers in.”
Jackson’s family found out Papa Rick, aka Rick Wilkerson, had incurable cancer of the blood and lymph nodes around Thanksgiving last year.
He was then placed on an eight-month course of treatment that includes intensive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
One thing that really scared him was losing as his hair, as he “thought it would be an outward sign that he had cancer and that everyone he saw would be thinking, ‘Poor Rick,’ and he was just dreading that,” Mrs Johnston said.
But when Jackson – who his mum says views his grandpa as his “idol” showed off his matching bald head to him this week his face lit up for the first time since he was diagnosed.
“Jackson shaving his head for Papa was letting him know that, ‘I can’t do much to help you, Papa, I am only 11, but you won’t be alone,’” she said.
Sadly his big reveal at school had a different reaction from some of the children.
So on Tuesday, Hadley gathered the entire middle school together and let Jackson shave his head.
Kids whooped and some even screamed: “Let’s go, Jackson!”
Some offered Jackson words of support and high-fives, and shared their own struggles with cancer.
Mr Haldey told the Mirror Online today: “Since then we have had several students voluntarily shave their heads as well, as a show if support.
“We’ve also had students begin to open up about their own struggles and life battles.
“I have had several in and out of my office sharing with me things they are going through that I was not aware of before.
“I truly hope it is a culture we can maintain long after the hair grows back.”
Posting a video of the tear-jerking head shave on Facebook parent Paula Pollock wrote: “This student shaved his head this weekend to show his support.
“Unfortunately some students didn’t react the best way so Tim Hadley decided to back the kid up.
“What better way than to let him shave his principals head.”
After the video went viral this week, Mrs Pollock told the Mirror Online: “I knew it was an awesome thing but never dreamt that it would have such an effect on so many people.
“Our principal has done so many other things for staff and students that his gesture didn’t surprise me.
“He is so caring and invested in our children that this was just one more thing he would do.”