OOSTBURG, WI -- After just a few moments into a visit at Oostburg Christian School, you discover some pretty striking messages -- like, "be brave, get bald." "Kickin' cancer." "Shave your lid for a brave kid." And a simple "we love you Abby." All those messages are signs of support for Abby Follen.
Abby isn't your typical third-grader. Not because of what she wears or her interests, but because she's battling for her life. During the Christmas break, she was dignosed with a rare case of bone cancer -- called Ewing's Sarcoma. That news not only took Abby and her family by surprise, but also those at her school.
"We heard about it when we came back to school in January," said OCS Administrator Bob Adams. "And since that time, the entire student body, the staff, parents have been just getting together -- trying to figure out ways to support Abby."
The support Abby has received from everyone at the school means a lot because she's been unable to attend since her diagnosis. And her absence has hardly gone unnoticed.
"If Abby were here today, I think everybody has one message for her and we all shouted it out in the student center," said 3rd and 4th grade teacher Georgia Smies.
There's no question that everyone at the Oostburg Christian School turns to their faith in good times as well as bad.
"Our kids have been praying like crazy ever since they've heard about it," said Adams. "I think it's one thing that hits students. It's real to them, when they realize here's a little eight-year-old girl, and it's real."
Besides prayer, the school community was intent upon doing even more. One of the mothers of the children at the school told us the call to action came quick.
"A group of us moms -- who have children in Abby's class -- came together and we just thought, 'how can we help this family,'" said Brenda Lammers.
As Lammers told us, it didn't take too long before the children at the school came up with ideas of their own.
"A couple of the kids had said they wanted to shave their heads," said Lammers. "So we thought, rather than just having a couple here or a couple there do that, it would be fun to make it an all school event. And quite honestly I think we were hoping maybe 50 kids would do this, and it turns out I'm not sure the exact number right now -- but I think we read about 90."
"It's really overwhelming. You know we're not; essentially we're not part of the community," said Abby's mother Nicole Follen. "We live in Sheboygan Falls, but I have to say that OCS -- in doing their different fundraisers -- has really supported us and come together to show the love of Christ, and just help us through a very very difficult time in our lives."
One by one, the heads of students and staff became clean-shaven. The new short haircuts stood out as a form of solidarity with Abby. They also serve as yet another way to raise funds, while easing the financial burden on her family. The students at Oostburg Christian School turned it into a fun event, showing Abby just how much they care about her.
"I don't know if she [Abby] understands everything that's going on here at school, and she loves to see everybody," said Nicole Follen. "And she always thinks it's silly when somebody shaves their head. Her dad shaved his head, so he could be with her and support her and stuff. She kinda' looked at him and said, 'Daddy, why did you do that?."
Of course there's a simple answer to that. Because he loves her, as does the entire Oostberg Christian School community. Their love, support and new haircuts are making Milwaukee Great.
Abby takes part in school via Skype and looks forward to rejoining her class. Donations can be made at the BMO Harris branch in Sheboygan Falls.