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Albany superintendent gets hair chopped for charity

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GINA R. HEINE
September 1, 2009
— Students in the Albany School District gained revenge Monday night on their superintendent, who said the kids couldn't collect 1 million pop tabs in a year.

One by one, students, teachers and parents lined up with the razor to shave Steve Guenther bald in a gymnasium full of spectators.


Teacher Connie Gregerson, who organized the effort, started the show. With the crowd cheering, she shaved a line from front to back of Guenther's head.


Winners of a raffle drawing took turns with the razor until all of Guenther's hair fell to the ground.


"This is well worth it because this has been a blast," Guenther told the crowd before having his hair shorn. "It's been so much fun to egg these kids on … Not a day went by in the last eight or nine months that I haven't had a kid come up and said, ‘I can't wait 'til you get your head shaved.'"


Brady Deegan and his friends Garrett Hlavachek and Jeb Beck were some of those kids. They found their seats early, and the group of 9-year-olds debated over how many tabs they collectively gathered—somewhere between 3,000 to 8,000.


They all hoped their number would be called to help in the shaving, and Brady, who had 31 tickets to his name, was the lucky one.


He bound up to the stage and eagerly took on the razor, making two quick swipes, shedding his superintendent's hair to the floor. Beaming, he jumped down and ran back to his seat.


The challenge sprung out of an elementary teachers meeting when the group was looking for ways to challenge kids, which evolved into collecting 1 million of something. Guenther doubted the K-12 school building's ability to collect that many tabs in a year, he said.


So he sacrificed his hair as motivation for the kids, who were fired up from the beginning to the end, he said.


"These kids never forgot," he said.


The collection started in January, and by the time school let out in spring, the kids were only 30,000 tabs short.


"It just goes to show how into this people got," Guenther said.


The project quickly became a community-wide effort, including businesses, as word spread, he said. Students and teachers in other school districts started collecting, along with friends and family members across the state.


"It just snowballed into this huge thing. … It just took on a life of its own," Guenther said.


The result: More than 1 million pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House in Madison—a feat the house director said has never been done.


In fact, Ronald McDonald himself was in attendance Monday.


"This is probably the biggest donation we've ever gotten," said Laurie Irwin, director of the Madison Ronald McDonald House. "This is the biggest amount collected by the smallest amount of people ever."


The money collected from the recycled tabs will go toward free night stays for families at the Ronald McDonald House, where families stay while their children are treated in an area hospital. Albany's efforts will provide at least 20 families with one- to two-night stays at the house, Irwin told the crowd.


"This is what Albany is all about," Guenther told the crowd.


Whether it's the two school referendums the community approved in spring or a project like this, it shows how everybody is behind the school and the kids, he said.


"It says a lot about our community," he said.



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