AVON — For years, Avon Middle School South has raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
The goal is to collect more money than the previous year. In 2012, the total was $1,300. Though they only got $6.17 the first day of this year's drive, after six days it was obvious to school guidance counselor Paul Quirke that they'd match last year's tally.
He thought of ideas that could push this year's fundraiser over the top. That's when Quirke approached Mike Dudek, a custodian at AMSS. Dudek's shaggy beard has endeared him among students. Quirke, jokingly at first, asked Dudek if he would shave his beard if the school raised $2,000 for the fundraiser. Dudek was hesitant but agreed, thinking they wouldn't reach that amount in less than a week.
Indeed, they needed a whopping $700 on the last day - the equivalent of about $1 from each student. Dudek wasn't sweating it come lunchtime. Then money started pouring in. One student contributed two $50 bills.
"That's when he started to get a little worried," Quirke said of Dudek.
The grand total at the end of that school day was $2,003. Dudek kept his end of the agreement. Two employees from Cass & Company Salon in Avon shaved his beard during a special convocation Wednesday morning in front of the entire student body.
Afterward, Dudek described his new appearance as "different."
"I don't think I've felt air on my chin in eight years," he said.
Dudek has an annual routine. Every Memorial Day he shaves his beard down to a goatee and shaves his head. He keeps them both that way until sometime in September.
"Then I start growing my hair and beard out until Memorial Day again," he said. "This year we went a little early."