Today, Northeast Middle School reading teacher Ashley Harris will undergo one of the most memorable haircuts of her life.
Memorable not because she will be entrusting her locks to two of the middle school's students, but because of what prompted the action.
"I was in North Carolina during the Christmas holidays and a friend and I were trying to come up with a good idea for a fundraiser."
A fundraiser not to benefit her school, but Harris' sister, Brandie Boles, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in December.
"She and her husband have a 5-month-old baby. And since she's already taken off for maternity leave, she doesn't have any time left," Harris said. "And now with the breast cancer diagnosis, she's just not able to work."
While brainstorming ways to raise funds to help defray some of her sister's expenses, Harris thought about donating her hair to Locks of Love – and her friend gave the idea an interesting twist.
"She said, 'You don't really hear of kids cutting their teacher's hair,'" Harris said. "We kind of ran with that and figured out a plan of action."
When Harris returned to Northeast after the break, she shared the fundraiser idea with her school's principal, Billy Burnham.
"He asked, 'Are you sure?' and I said, 'Yes, sir.' And then he said, 'Well, let me give you two weeks to think about it,'" she said.
Two weeks later, an even more sure Harris was given the okay to set the fundraiser in motion.
Beginning at the end of January, Northeast's fifth- and sixth-graders could purchase tickets for $1 each for a chance to cut Harris' hair. Two names will be drawn today – one for each grade – to perform the task, which will take place during an afternoon student assembly in the school's gymnasium.
"My hair is going to be in ponytail sections, and the students will cut to where each one stops. And then my aunt, who owns a salon and cuts my hair, will use clippers to cut my hair (into a style)," Harris said.
Boles learned about the event while having her own hair cut to be fashioned into a wig.
"I actually got to cut a piece of her hair," Harris said. "When I told her what I was doing, she was speechless ... I had to go up to her and ask, 'Are you okay? Are you mad with me? Is this okay? Can I do this?'"
Harris said she is in awe of how her sister has coped with the breast cancer diagnosis.
"I cried a lot when my mom first told me about it. But my sister ... I have not once seen her upset," she said. "She's constantly positive and praising God. She's such an amazing person and so much an inspiration to me. That's why I'm doing this."
Student response to the fundraiser has been beyond Harris' expectations.
"Ticket sales have been awesome; it's been amazing and more than I ever anticipated," she said. "And some of the students are raising money; my second period class showed up with $51. Kids who don't have money have come to me and said, 'Miss Harris I want to give you this.' And when I've said to them, 'I just want to make sure that you understand that if you don't win, you don't get your money back,' they say, 'Miss Harris, we don't care, that's fine.'"
Even more touching to her have been the words of kindness expressed by many of the Northeast students.
"I've had kids who I don't even know to come up to me and say, 'Miss Harris I can't donate, but we did put your sister and your family on our prayer list at church' and oh, my gosh, my heart broke. That was so inspirational to me," Harris said.
All proceeds from the haircut fundraiser will go to Boles. Although a fund has been set up at a local credit union, Harris also asks the community to pray for her sister and family.
"If you can give, that's amazing. But all we ask for is prayer," she said.
Want to help?
A fund has been established in Brandie Boles' name at Meridian Mutual Federal Credit Union.