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Hair shaved to support Phoenix Hunter

Knowing you're not alone can help a lot when you are going through hard times. When second grader Phoenix Hunter lost his hair as the result of the chemotherapy he has been undergoing for leukemia, Century Elementary School interventionist Casey ...

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Getting a chance to do a little head shaving, 2nd grader Phoenix Hunter gets a helping hand from stylist Terri Peterson at Family Hair Affair while officer Colter Diekmann's sat perfectly still. Phoenix's dad, Chris Hunter (seen in the mirror), smiles as he watches. Photos by Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise.

Knowing you're not alone can help a lot when you are going through hard times.

When second grader Phoenix Hunter lost his hair as the result of the chemotherapy he has been undergoing for leukemia, Century Elementary School interventionist Casey Swenson wanted to help him feel strong and confident.

"One day Phoenix revealed to me that he was beginning to lose his hair," she said. "He said it was falling off on his pillow, and there were huge chunks of hair. It was getting to the point where he was embarrassed to be in school because he would open up his book and see clumps of hair falling all over his homework."

Swenson said while Phoenix has been through a lot with his illnesses and nausea, this was the most traumatic part for him to wrap his mind around. He got his head shaved, but told her now he wasn't cool.

"I thought if other people shaved their heads, he wouldn't feel so alone," she said.

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Two of Phoenix's friends, Ryan and Elliot Cook, were the first to join Phoenix in getting their heads shaved.

"One day when police officer Joe Rittgers walked by and I asked him if he was going to shave his head for Phoenix, too," Swenson said. "Joe said he didn't know anything about it, but came up to me the next day and said he had gone to the police chief and right away the chief said, without hesitation, 'Oh, we are doing this.' He asked around and got 100 percent of his department to sign up. Family Hair Affair is doing this for free - that's awesome."

The entire Park Rapids Police Department, along a Hubbard County officer and some Century School students and staff came into Family Hair Affair Thursday to have their heads shaved in support of Phoenix.

"I thought that was awesome," Rittgers said. "Our department put a challenge on his GoFundMe page, and we raised some good money that I hope will help."

The GoFundMe page raised $610 in pledges. With an additional $500 donation from Justin Clack, the family will receive $1,110 to help with the many expenses they face.

Swenson said Phoenix goes into the hospital for chemotherapy, and while at times he is very susceptible to catching illnesses, he still comes to school. "We keep him distanced from anyone with a cold or other illness," she said.

The spaghetti dinner benefit and auction for Hunter held at Century earlier this fall raised almost $5,700 to help the family with medical expenses. Swenson and Sumner, along with teachers Alicia Hillesland and Julie Cook planned that benefit.

Phoenix's parents, Danielle Perry and Chris Hunter said they are very thankful for the kindness they have been shown. "The support means a lot to our family," Chris said. "People have come together in the community and we couldn't ask for anything more."

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Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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