Marshall Elementary School fourth-grader Mark Millard waved a fistful of his just-cut braids in the air, emotion showing in his eyes.
Mark’s classmates had just cut off his long blond hair after he’d let it grow for 18 months to donate to Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan, which provides wigs for children who lose their hair for a variety of reasons. One by one, students cut sections of Mark’s hair, tied into braids for easy snipping.
But there’s more to this story.
Mark had already started growing out his hair when he decided to run for fourth-grade class president. But while campaigning last year as a third-grader, he made a promise to his peers. If his schoolmates brought in food items for Byron Center-based Buist Community Assistance Center and Hand2Hand, which provides students in need with backpacks filled with food, Mark would allow the class that brought in the most food items to cut his hair. More than 1,000 food items were donated.
“I feel good that I’m helping people,” he said.
Mark’s father, Matt Millard, said he was impressed by his son’s dedication.
“We’re really proud of him because he has had to endure a year and a half of being called a girl,” Millard said. “He’s been really humble about it. He never got upset. He’s a strong kid. I don’t think I ever could have done it.”
Mark’s mom, Andrea Millard, said students and teachers helped her son reach his goal. “I’ve been so impressed with the school and way they have treated Mark. The whole school’s been so supportive of him having his long hair and looking different. They’ve embraced it.”
Interim Principal Carla Kaufmann said Mark is aways a helper at school. “There’s a quiet confidence about him. He’s very humble. This wasn’t about, ‘Look at me.’ It was about, ‘Look at what’s needed. Look what we can do.'”
Fourth-grader Zachary Weemhoff was impressed Mark grew his hair so long. “We know he’s helping a lot of people. We feel sad he’s losing his hair.”