Rye residents may have noticed a lot of boys with buzz cuts around town in recent days.
The new trend is not a fashion or political statement, it’s a show of support for a boy who recently was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
When Hamish Fenton, a sixth grader at Rye Middle School, shaved his head before his first round of chemotherapy, his older brother Archer, a junior on the Rye High School Varsity Football team, decided to shave his head as well in support. Their brother Jagger, a freshman on the JV Football team, quickly followed suit.
While the brothers believe their camaraderie might have helped Hamish “feel a bit better”, they agreed that what really made their little brother smile was when senior football captain and quarterback, A.J. Miller, showed up at the Fenton’s house and asked Hamish if he would shave his head as well.
“Hamish really loves A.J.,” Archer said with a smile.
Word spread, and soon members of both Rye High School football teams were shaving their heads. Then other students at both schools did the same. Some 200 Rye High and Middle school students are now sporting buzz cuts.
Cassie Fenton, the boys’ mom, while deeply moved and appreciative, is not surprised by the student’s show of solidarity, given the outpouring of support the family has received from the Rye community.
“I cannot begin to name the ways the town has reached out to us,” Cassie said. “Food deliveries. Gifts. Prayer chains.” Many kids on different sports teams and in the stands, and others around town, have been wearing purple in tribute to Hamish’s favorite color. The boys and parents on Hamish’s own rugby team and two football teams play for him every week and have been a wellspring of support for us.” She added, “The School District has done everything they can to help us.”
Cassie and Gus Fenton, who moved with their family to Rye from Australia three years ago, are immensely grateful for the support they have received. “I guess if you’re going to have a tough time, Rye is the place to do it,” Cassie said. As someone who has always tried to help others in times of crisis, she finds it somewhat overwhelming yet exceptionally moving to be on the receiving end.
In addition to their three boys, the Fentons have a daughter in first grade, and a wide circle of friends and family in Australia. Jagger was quick to note that the head shaving for Hamish is a global event and that friends “around the world” have followed the lead of the brothers and their teammates.
While the town of Rye has “turned up in spades”, for the family, Cassie Fenton has a special appreciation for the football team. The same week the Fentons received their son’s diagnosis, their house flooded in one of this fall’s torrential storms.
“The team turned up like a band of angels to help us,” she said. “I can’t say enough about these boys.”
Note: Friends of the Fentons started a GoFundMe account called Hamish Strikes Back to help cover the cost of Hamish’s treatment and any related unexpected costs. So far, they have raised $258,923. Any remaining funds will be donated to support pediatric cancer research or a related cancer charity.