Two efforts to raise cancer awareness, combat the disease and find a cure converged in Ken Chung's mind -- and left him gladly bald:
Will Cliatt, chairman of the local Cancer Prevention Study-3 committee, asked him to participate.
His twin sons, Chance and Chandler, told him their fellow fifth-graders at Clubview Elementary School had chosen to study cancer as this year's exhibition project, a requirement for the International Baccalaureate program.
Chung then challenged the Clubview students: If they registered at least 100 participants for the CPS-3 study, he would let them shave his head.
Well, the students soared past that goal, signing up 140 of the 462 CPS-3 participants in Muscogee County. And in a raucous assembly Friday afternoon, Chung delivered on his promise.
The assembly's pre-shaving festivities included Chandler and fellow fifth-graders Andrew Albright and Isabelle Artola explaining the project. Cliatt presented the school with a plaque, and Denise Dowdy, senior community manager for the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society, put it all in perspective.
"What you helped to do by getting people to enroll in this study is going to help your children when you have children," Dowdy told the students. "So when they grow up, they don't have to hear the words, 'You have cancer.' Wouldn't that be pretty cool?"
The students hollered, "Yeah!"
Then it was time for Chung, a 44-year-old general contractor, to lose his hair by choice to help fight a disease that forces too many to lose theirs as a side effect of treatment.
Chung draped a towel around his shoulders and sat in a chair on the stage. Before he succumbed to the clippers, he announced, "I want to know if my wife is still going to love me with a bald head."
His wife, Marty, replied, "Absolutely."
As the students chanted -- "Do it! Do it! " and "Shave him bald! Shave him bald! " -- the following folks took turns shaving the hero's head: principal Lorrie Watt; Chance and Chandler; Chung's daughter, Joy Brannon, a pre-K teacher at Clubview; and fifth-grade teacher Charlene Coleman. Mandy Revell of the American Cancer Society did the finishing touches.
Watt concluded, "I know I could not be prouder of this school and this student body."
Before the students were dismissed, Chung gave them another challenge.
"Continue the fight," he said. "Continue the fight by talking and telling people about what we've done today, to increase awareness about the search for a cure for cancer. You guys are awesome. You are awesome."
Chandler beamed as bright as the light reflecting off his father's freshly shaved head and said, "This will help a lot of people and make a big difference."
Nationwide, approximately 280,000 have signed up for the Cancer Prevention Study-3. The goal is 300,000 by the end of the year. Although registration has finished locally, those interested in still signing up can find a registration site at www.cancer.org/cps3 or by calling 888-604-5888. To be eligible, you must be between the ages of 30-65 and never have been diagnosed with cancer. This multi-year survey will study lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors that might cause or prevent cancer.