-- A 9-year-old girl who spent months away from school while battling cancer received a welcome back like none other when more than 80 of her classmates, teachers and friends’ parents shaved their heads in a show of support.
Marlee Pack, of Broomfield, Colorado, was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of soft tissue, connective tissue or bone, in April 2015 after a bump developed on her left foot.
Just weeks after her diagnosis, Marlee had her foot amputated and began a rigorous chemotherapy treatment that she just finished in February. As a result of the chemotherapy, Marlee lost her hair.
“My older daughter and I both cut our hair and made a wig for her but she never wore it,” Marlee’s mom, Shelly Pack, told ABC News. “After a while she was just comfortable being bald and the wig was itchy and she didn’t want it.”
As Marlee was preparing for her return to school, her teacher and classmates at Meridian Elementary School began to think of ways to make Marlee feel comfortable back at school.
The result was a school assembly -- titled “Be Bold, Be Brave, Go Bald" -- in which dozens of the school’s teachers, students and parents all shaved their heads. Leading the charge was Marlee’s best friend, Cameron McLaughlin.
“It made my heart happy and at the same time broke my heart that Cameron would even consider doing that,” Pack said. “I was crying the whole time they were shaving her head. She had a bob, really cute curly hair.”
Pack said the March 16 school assembly came at a good time for Marlee as it gave her something to look forward to as she finished her final and toughest round of chemotherapy.
“She was very excited that she was able to be there for the day,” Pack said. “She and Cameron held hands while they shaved Cameron’s head.”
The event also raised more than $25,000, which will be donated to a cancer-focused charity.
“I feel like Marlee has been such an inspiration to our school,” Meridian Elementary School principal Matt Haviland told ABC News. “It seems like there’s been some pretty amazing bonding and everyone has commented on how it really brought our school together for a common cause.”
Marlee -- who used her Make-A-Wish Foundation wish to build stuffed animals for other cancer patients –- is now back in her third-grade classroom after being welcomed back in a way that is “unreal” to her family.
“My daughter has amazed me in more than one way, and then my daughter’s school and friends have turned around and done the same thing for her,” Pack said.