Top of the morning, April 2, 2014
Shannon Farmer attended cosmetology school for a spell.
On Tuesday, the 31-year-old dispatcher for Lanz Heating & Cooling put what she learned to work. Setting up shop in, well, the company shop in west Champaign, Farmer buzzed 23 Lanz employees in a show of support for 4-year-old Brynlee Gerber, whose father Andrew is a service technician.
Brynlee recently was diagnosed with leukemia. This week, her hair will start falling out due to treatments she's receiving at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
So her dad's workmates decided they should lose their hair, too.
"We wanted to let her know that there are a lot of people supporting her as she faces some pretty hard times," Farmer said. "Everyone was more than willing to do this."
The line was 20 deep by 7:15 a.m., transforming what Farmer called "a man garage" into a salon — albeit with tools on the wall.
Using clippers with no guard, Farmer trimmed like never before. Her customers included three women whose donations went to Locks of Love.
"I didn't get any tips," Farmer said, "but I told them they owe me lunch. I'm pregnant and hungry."
Brynlee got a kick out of it, her dad told Farmer. Pictures of the shave-a-thon — like the one above — were texted to the Gerbers, who live in LeRoy but will remain in Memphis for some time.
"She loved seeing the girls holding their pony tails," Farmer said.
"Shocked" by the news of Brynlee's illness, the Lanz crew quickly gathered to generate ideas on how to raise spirits and cover expenses. Each idea — among them a Facebook campaign and "Brynlees's Believers" T-shirts — was met with enthusiasm.
That includes Tuesday's group haircut.
"It brings tears to your eyes when you realize all these people are coming together for a good cause," Farmer said. "I know a special little 4-year-old who is feeling famous today."
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