In a show of community support, teachers at Parklands Christian College are shaving or colouring their hair in April for the Leukaemia Foundation.
The school is rallying behind Lead Teacher in HPE and Sport, Mr. Josh Leembruggen, who began a ‘Shave for the Cure’ fundraiser after his four-year old son, Nate, was diagnosed with Leukaemia in December last year.
All the Year 12 Lead and Pastoral Care teachers will be getting their hair shaved or coloured on the day.
‘I wanted to be able to do something that was a little uncomfortable in support of him,’ Mr Leembruggen explains.
‘But I also realised that it’s not just for my son but for all the other people that we see in the wards getting treatments and all the other sick kids.’
When Mr Leembruggen’s colleagues at Parklands got word of his initiative, they decided to jump on board and support the Leembruggen family and young Nate. Lead Teacher in Maths and Science Ms. Kristie Schulz explains,
‘[Josh] is a really long-standing member of the community here at Parklands so we really want to show our love and support for him and his family as well.’
Donations have flooded in over recent weeks, smashing Mr Leembruggen’s original target of $1512, a special number as it marks the date of his son’s diagnosis.
Since then, the target has changed three times, and continues to be updated.
‘This life changing news was tough to take, but I saw first-hand how much funds raised through this organisation and others helps so much when you’re in the thick of it,’ Mr Leembruggen writes on his fundraising page.
The response from the community has been tremendous, with businesses and school members coming together to show their support for the fundraiser and for the Leembruggen family.
‘It’s so amazing,’ says Ms. Schulz. ‘Every time I turn around this thing is bigger and bigger because people are just jumping on board and giving really generously of their time and expertise.’
The school wishes to show their gratitude for community members who have volunteered their services. Glen and Balinda Slade from Logan Village Bakery are providing a batch of free cookies for students to sell on the day, with all profits heading for the charity.
‘It was just my way of helping out,’ says Mr Slade.
Giving their time free of charge is Originals Barber Shop, with Mr Jacob Moore offering his shaving services to ensure everything goes smoothly.
‘Amazing,’ is how Mr Leembruggen describes the response from the Parklands’ community. In his twelfth year with the school in 2021, he knows the community well.
‘It’s been pretty humbling to be honest,’ he admits. ‘Humbling and overwhelming.’
‘It just exemplifies the community and the values that Parklands has. It’s what the community does there.’
Students are encouraged to get involved by wearing orange and blue colours on the day of the fundraiser, which will be run alongside the Parklands’ annual cross-country festival. Donations of gold coins are required, amongst other activities such as food stalls and hairspray, profits of which will go to the fundraiser.
Support from the community has come flooding in over recent weeks, with many donators contributing over $100 to the cause.
‘Stay strong mate,’ and ‘We’re praying with you all the way,’ were amongst the comments of those that donated.
A former student involved in dance sold one of her costumes to donate to the to the charity.
‘I thought that was really cool,’ Mr Leembruggen says.
You can help Mr Leembruggen and the Parklands Team smash their donation targets by visiting his donation page.
Fighting Leukaemia takes a team
It hasn’t been an easy road for the Leembruggen family. An important part of the fundraiser is simply to raise awareness about blood cancer and the impact it can have on everyone involved.
Chemotherapy treatment weakens the immune system, which means Nate must be closely observed to ensure he isn’t placed in any danger.
‘Because his immunity is low there’s the risk of him picking up things and having complications. Something as small as an infected mozzie-bite can turn into something quite serious.’
It’s meant that Mr Leembruggen and his wife have had to take leave from work and must plan out travel in advance.
Other struggles include daily medications, weekly hospital visits, and full-time care of Nate’s two brothers, who must be pulled out of day-care whenever there’s a risk of bringing sickness home.
‘It affects his brothers immensely,’ Mr Leembruggen said. ‘His middle brother, Jack, really missed his brother and when he came back from hospital Nate was a different person, ie. not wanting to run and play.’
It was a difficult time for the family, who lived through a period of unknowns and separation while Nate underwent diagnosis and treatment.
‘Life as we knew it flipped upside down,’ Mr Leembruggen says.
‘After taking him into the ER on a Monday night, I didn’t leave the hospital for another two weeks.’
The experience was made more painful by an outbreak of gastro in the family that meant mother Rachel was unable to visit.
A virus on the ward forced Nate into a six-day lockdown, and afterwards he was again unable to return home due to an outbreak of influenza in the household.
Owing to Nate’s low immunity, the family decided to isolate for a further month during the intensive phase of treatment. Father and son spent Christmas together with the grandparents, while mother Rachel and the other kids relocated to Toowoomba.
‘It was tough not to see my wife and other two boys Jack and Zane during this time. I missed them a lot.’
The hardest part for the family is seeing their young boy affected by the various treatments he undergoes.
‘The first month was so hard. He went from an active boy, running, jumping and climbing to needing assistance to even get out of bed.’
The fight continues for the Leembruggen family. While I spoke to Mr Leembruggen, he was sat in the Emergency Room with his youngest son, Zane, who had caught an infection and had to isolate from his brother.
‘It does feel like you are ‘on’ all the time,’ Mr Leembruggen says. ‘We’re constantly checking on him and monitoring how he is and what he is doing, trying not to fall or pick up any other injuries.
Nate is in remission from the disease, which the family describe as a ‘miracle’. But he’s still got a long journey ahead, facing two more years of chemotherapy before the disease can be handled.
‘It’s early days and we are new to all this, so [we’re] very much taking it one day at a time.’