It is well known that Dr. Mary Rockey doesn't seek attention for herself. Nonetheless, she could not help but be caught up in the outpouring of enthusiasm, generosity and sacrifice displayed in last week's Razor's For Rockey event at Westfield Central School District.
"I have only been here since July," said the WACS elementary principal. "But the people of Westfieldthey love you. It's a place where you really feel a lot of love."
Thirteen teachers and staff, including WACS superintendent David Davison, and one high school student, had their heads shaved on Monday, March 27 while hundreds of students in pink attire chanted, "Shave their heads!" The event served to raise more than $5,500 to be donated to Roswell Cancer Center in honor of Rockey, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Pictured are some of the many participants in the recent Razor’s For Rockey event at WACS. On the floor are Richard Schumacher and Matt Eggleston. In front are Bob North, Wade Dellow, Val Gelsimino, Dr. Rockey, Janelle Post and Kevin Harp. In back are Zach Camarata, Jared Winder, Heath Forster, Dave Davison, Michael Putney and Thad Scharf.
"I had little to do with it," Rockey said with a laugh. "All I did was to show up.
It was actually fifth-grade teacher Michael Putney who got the idea to have a fundraiser after Rockey came to a staff meeting with her hair cut short.
She explained about her diagnosis and said that soon her hair would all be gone, Putney said. "I felt we needed to do something that would show our support for her."
Putney got together with fifth-grade teachers Janelle Post and Wade Dellow, and with physical education teacher Kevin Harp. Together they came up with the idea of volunteers having their heads shaved as a sign of support and a way to raise money.
Rockey said at first she was not favorable to the idea because she does not like attention to be drawn to herself. "Then one of my friends said: It's not about you. It's about all of the people who will be helped by what they will do," she said.
Rockey said she was swayed by the thought that this could help students whose lives have been or will be touched by cancer. So she gave her full support to the project.
The event quickly caught momentum. Volunteers began signing up to have their heads shaved. When Harp offered a special contribution for any woman who would take part in it, Post and Valerie Gelsimino took up the challenge and signed up. Putney even made special pink socks with the words "Razors for Rockey" for every person whose locks were going to fall.
Students began bringing in contributions and vying to be the class which raised the most. Randolph Central School District, where Rockey had served before coming to Westfield, sent a large contribution.
People from the community got involved as well. Former students Nate Harp and Joey Neratko volunteered to play guitar and drums respectively at the event. Two local beauticians, Laura Luke from Main Street Salon and Lani Garrison from Tallulah Hair Design, volunteered their time to assist in the shaving.
But perhaps most amazing was that it all took place in nine days. "It certainly is the Westfield way, isn't it?" said Rockey. "When they do something, it's all or nothing and this certainly was all."
Those who took part in the event appeared to be as moved by it as Rockey. Both Post and Gelsimino said they felt honored to be involved.
"I was blessed to have a mammogram come back normal, but a lot of gals don't," said Gelsiminio. "I'm in support of these women past, present and future. I was honored to do this."
Post said losing her hair did not bother her. "I was very proud to support anybody who is dealing with cancer and to show that hair is just hair," she said. Gelsimino added quickly, "Hair today, gone tomorrow."
Both women said the feedback they received was overwhelmingly supportive. "People said: I wish I was that brave," Gelsimino said. "I just felt led to do it."
Putney said that Rockey's handling of her diagnosis would help students in their own lives. "She leads by example. She showed the kids that it might be hard to go through certain things, but it's easier when you go through it together," he said.
Harp agreed that Rockey's openness and participation helped make the event a great success. "Dr. Rockey doesn't like a lot of personal attention," he said. "But from the moment Mike talked to her, she was on board 100 percent. I could see that she was really pleased."
For her part, Rockey simply said the whole event made her even more grateful to be at Westfield. "It sweeps you up and makes you feel it's really good to be a part of Westfield," she said. "I feel truly blessed to be here."