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80 students shave heads to support classmate with cancer returning to school

To the 80 students who shaved their heads, it was just hair, but to 9-year-old Marlee Pack, it's her life.
/ Source: TODAY

To the 80 students who shaved their heads, it was just hair, but to 9-year-old Marlee Pack, it's her life.

After being diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that develops from connective tissues in the body, a year ago, Marlee was finally returning to Meridian Elementary School in Broomfield, Colorado.

In an effort to support her best friend, Cameron McLaughlin decided to donate a portion of her long, curly locks, but didn't feel like that was enough — she wanted to shave her entire head.

Marlee Pack holding up the hair that had just been shaved off her best friend Cameron's head.Courtesy of Cliff Grassmick / DC

"When Cameron told Marlee she was thinking about shaving her head, Marlee got a huge smile on her face and said 'we can be baldy besties together!'" Cheray McLaughlin, Cameron's mom, told

Cameron's idea blossomed into a school-wide event on March 16 called "Be Bold, Be Brave, Go Bald," where 80 students, three female teachers, both male principals and even a student's mom got their heads shaved.

Marlee Pack and Cameron McLaughlin touching each other's heads after Cameron got her hair shaved.Courtesy of Cliff Grassmick / DC

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"We thought, what if we asked people to donate their hair or shave their head to raise money for a good cause?" McLaughlin said.

That's when McLaughlin teamed up with teacher Jody Hempelmann, who came up with the idea to raise funds for St. Baldrick's Foundation, an organization that supports childhood cancer research. Her husband Chris has been donating his hair to the foundation for a few years in honor of his coworkers son.

Students and teachers getting their heads shaved at the "Be Bold, Be Brave, Go Bald" event on March 16Courtesy of Cliff Grassmick / DC

They ended up raising over $25,000 and eight stylists offered their services during the event. Those who would rather donate hair than shave their heads were invited to drop by Salon Toujours Belle after school.

"I didn't think that many people would shave their heads, but I feel good about going back to school and not being the only bald one," Marlee told

Marlee Pack shaving her first grade teacher, Erin Dupper's, head.Courtesy of Cliff Grassmick / DC

Although the stylists were doing most of the shaving, Marlee got the opportunity to shave the head of her first grade teacher, Erin Dupper, which she found very exciting.

"I feel very connected to Marlee and wanted to do something to show her how much I care, so I thought shaving my head seemed like an easy thing to do," Dupper told

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Marlee was there for Cameron for moral support and held her hand the whole time she was getting her head shaved. "It's OK to cry," Marlee assured her.

Marlee Pack smiling at Cameron McLaughlin as she gets her head shaved.Courtesy of Cliff Grassmick / DC

"The kids getting to see Marlee upbeat, happy and brave instead of the sick girl they were imagining made it a celebration," Dupper said.

Marlee's mom, Shelly Pack, has seen her daughter come out of her shell since the diagnosis.

"She's been through so much in the past year, I think she just faces life head on now," Pack told "This event only made her even more outgoing, confident and happy and as her mom, it's refreshing to see."