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J.W. Smith fundraiser benefits Cancer Society

Kindergarten teacher Kevin Cochran reacts as Traci Vaughn, a fellow kindergarten teacher, snips off a portion of his beard, which was eventually shaved clean Friday morning as students met a challenge to raise $900 for the American Cancer Society. Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — With one teacher duct-taped to a chair, hundreds of schoolchildren whooped and cheered as kindergarten teacher Kevin Cochran had his long beard sheered Friday morning.

It had taken him between eight and nine months to grow it out, Cochran noted as he took his seat in the J.W. Smith Elementary School gymnasium.

But a deal’s a deal.

This week marked the third annual J.W. Smith fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, as students raised money in memory of Abe Fagerstrom, a fourth-grader who died May 13, 2011, after battling cancer for more than seven years.

As part of the fundraiser, art teacher Jill Derouin promised to cut off 10 inches of her hair — to go to Locks of Love — if the students raised $500 through a change war, when students competed by class to raise funds by bringing in spare change.

Cochran said he’d shave his face if students raised $900.

In an all-student assembly Friday morning, the kids learned they had raised $1,137.58 — plus the hundreds of dollars raised that morning when students were invited to donate $1 to place a piece of duct tape on librarian Gretchen Rusch, tying her to a metal chair.

So, with the help of students and staff, Derouin’s hair was significantly shortened and Cochran’s chin was made bare again.

In addition to the change war, students this week were also able to purchase a sun or moon and write the name of a loved who has or had cancer.

On Friday afternoon, the school hosted the Relay Recess, as students took part in a variety of events, such as a water relay, tug-of-war and bean-bag toss. Central Elementary students also attended that event.