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H.B. Thompson Middle School teachers grow beards in support of student Nick Portugal
Nick Portugal was diagnosed with leukemia last Dec. 10.
The next day, a group of students at Harry B. Thompson Middle School in Syosset were so inspired to help the 12-year-old seventh grader that they came up with the idea of selling orange bracelets inscribed with “No one fights alone” during lunch periods to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
From there, 20 faculty and administrators decided to grow their beards for two months in support of Portugal, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment and has been out of school since the diagnosis.
Luca Lucano, an English, social studies and special education teacher at the school, has been growing his beard along with his colleagues since Jan. 10.
“He’s an amazing kid,” said Lucano, 40, of Northport, who coached Portugal on the Syosset Firebirds Soccer Club. “He has a very dry sense of humor, he loves videogames and he’s tough as nails on the soccer field. He’s really our inspiration for this.”
Students paid $1 to vote for the faculty member or student with the best, worst, funniest, craziest or ugliest beard. Students could vote as many times as they wanted, but had to pay $1 per vote. At the end of each week, the winning beards were announced for comedic purposes. Thursday was the last day of the beard-growing campaign when teachers finally had the option to shave.
Assistant Principal Kevin Bonanno said $2,500 has been raised between bracelet sales and votes.
“I thought this would be a good staff bonding opportunity and at the same time we could raise money for a cause close to our hearts,” said Bonanno. “We also take a picture of us all every Monday to see how funny we look. “
The only student growing a beard is eighth grader Jahdeel Robinson, 14, who started late on Jan. 25, but received a lot of attention from students and raised just more than $80 from votes.
Jimmy Orioli, an eighth grader and student council president, spearheads the bracelet sale during lunch periods and said he would like younger students to continue this next year.
“The whole school came together in December to wear orange to support Nick and so we ran with it and started selling orange bracelets,” said Orioli, 13, of Woodbury. “If this is what we can do to show Nick he’s not alone, this is what we’re going to do.”
Check out pictures of faculty and their beards at the school's website.