Nathan Coleman has shaved his head clean. His thick locks are gone, leaving behind a pale scalp that feels cold under his kippah and a big smile on his face. The 15-year-old is ecstatic to show solidarity with his best friend who’s fighting cancer.
Coleman had the razor fired up on July 25, after reaching his funding goal on an online GoFundMe campaign that he created in honour of his friend, Emma-Belle Freid, 15, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in March.
“Emma, you will not fight this alone,” Coleman wrote in the campaign’s description. “You have always been there for me, and now it’s my turn to stand by your side and fight this mental and painful battle with you.”
Coleman started the campaign on July 22, initially setting a $1,000 goal, at which point he would shave his head in solidarity with Freid, who has lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy. He surpassed the goal in just 48 hours, thanks to support from his and Freid’s family and friends.
Once he stopped running “up and down the halls” in excitement, he knew it was time to sit in his stepdad’s mock barber’s chair and face the music.
“I was a bit nervous, because again, no one wants to shave their head. But then I realized it was for Emma-Belle. I want to to do this for (her) and the end result: I was super happy that I did it,” he said, glancing at his forearm, where a fake tattoo written in black marker read “#4Emma.”
He added that the naysayers who didn’t believe he would go through with it also motivated him. “I keep my promises,” he said jokingly. “I did it.”
Coleman and Freid have been inseparable since they met in Grade 1 at Associated Hebrew Schools Kamin branch in Thornhill, Ont., 10 years ago. In the months since Freid was diagnosed, a day that Coleman said “devastated” him, the two teenagers have been trying to see each other in between Freid’s chemotherapy and hospital visits.
They’ve also been talking on social media every day, Coleman said. Even so, he didn’t tell Freid about the fundraiser at first, though she eventually found out.
“I started crying. It really hit me,” Freid said, recalling how she felt when she first heard about Coleman’s efforts.
Initially, the $1,000 goal seemed high and she said she had her doubts that Coleman would get there.
But then, “all of a sudden, it was at like $600 … I was like, ‘wait, what?’ ” she continued. Once the goal was hit, she said she quickly messaged Coleman asking if he was sure he wanted to shave his head. He was.
The money raised from the campaign will go to the Canadian Cancer Society to fund cancer research, an initiative that Coleman already had a soft spot for. The teenager lost his grandfather to cancer when he was nine and lost another friend to the disease just a few years later.
“I’ve lost one too many people to cancer and there needs to be a cure,” he said.
At press time, his GoFundMe had more than $2,000 – over double its initial goal, but Coleman stressed that he has no intention of stopping there.
“My dream goal is probably $10,000, that would be amazing to hit,” he said, adding that the campaign needs to be shared more for that to happen.
The next funding goal, he hopes, will convince his stepfather to shave his head, too.