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McHenry girl goes bald to support sister

McHenry fourth-grader raises thousands for cancer research

McHENRY – Ever since Maya Keesey lost her hair as a result of her chemotherapy treatment, her little sister, Emma, has wanted to shave her own head in support.

The Riverwood Elementary School fourth-grader was recognized last week for raising the most money out of any grammar school student in the greater Chicago area for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“I wanted to raise money and help other kids with cancer who are going through the same thing Maya’s going through,” Emma said.

Her sister, 12-year-old Maya who attends Parkland Middle School, was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2012 after her parents, Todd and Rachel Keesey, took her to a pediatrician. She had pain in her eyes and legs and low-grade fevers, and she had been really tired, taking naps in the middle of the day – something quite out of character.

She’s now halfway through her maintenance stage, which involves daily oral chemotherapy treatments, stronger treatments once a week, intravenous treatments once a month and spinal taps two out of every three months.

Emma raised nearly $6,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research and another $2,500 for Be the Match, a program operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.

The McHenry Community Shave put on by McHenry’s two high schools also was recognized by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for raising the most money – just over $230,000 – out of any school-sponsored event.

“It’s a super positive event, and I think the culture of their school has really been impacted by it, too,” said their mother, Rachel Keesey. “As a family with a child with cancer in it, I can’t say enough about how much those types of things impact you as you’re going through, especially early on.”

The Keeseys had originally planned to shave Maya’s hair when she started to lose it, but then she decided she wanted to participate in the St. Baldrick’s Day fundraising, holding off the actual shave despite her hair beginning to fall out from the chemotherapy treatments and raising about $7,200.

And once the shave happened, Maya had no problems going bald.

“It was easier to go bald when there were like 30 girls at my school [who shaved],” Maya said. “They’re all walking around bald, and I’m walking around bald.”

Maya’s hair has now grown out to the point where she can now put her hair in pigtails – an occasion she was very excited about – and is now handing off some of her headbands to her sister.

“Headbands have been a way of life,” Rachel Keesey said.

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