Senator John F. Curran (R-Downers Grove) is pleased to announce the first-place winner of his 2017 Veterans Day Essay Contest, Marieclaire Popernik. She is currently a seventh grade student at LaGrange Highlands Middle School. Popernik's essay was chosen out of 92 student entries. Read her winning submission below.
By Marieclaire Popernik
My life as a regular 10 year old was just beginning. I was at the age where I thought I was good enough to be an adult but I still felt like a child. Still needing to learn everyday lessons and also teach others lessons. But not everyone was at optimal health. A very special woman who was the only parent of Jason Bucciarelli was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
Her name was Tracy. It was extremely hard for all of us to sit and watch her through her pain while all we could do was pray the medicines worked. Everyday I tried to think of a way I could help Tracy. I tried making her cupcakes and designing crafts but none of that seemed to make a big impact. So, I thought deeper and deeper and finally came up with a plan. A tough one to complete, but it would for sure make that impact. I put my plan into play and so off to the barber shop I went.
That's right! I was going to donate my hair. My long and precious hair. The part of a girl's body that every girl cherishes. I felt so bad that Tracy had to do chemo while the effects were hair loss. So, I decided to make my impact. But not only was I going to just cut a bit off. I was going to shave my head just like her. Except, she didn't shave it. Anyways, I wanted to go through what it was like to not have any hair. I invited her to the barber shop and told her everything. She started to cry and so did I because it was a very emotional moment. I put my wet hair in a ponytail and then shaved all around so it would make a full wig for a child who was going through the same struggles as Tracy. We took so many pictures that day and it was for sure a day to never forget.
When I was in the car on my way to school, I didn't know if kids were going to make fun of me. I didn't know if they were going to call me a boy or say I looked weird because of that. But then I had to take into consideration that those 5th graders didn't have the mindset as I did. They didn't understand why I did it. They didn't know how to react when they saw me so they chose to make fun of me. And I chose not to listen. I chose to block them out and just take every question they would ask about my head and then remember Tracy.
Then the worst came. Cancer got the best of her.
I am a twelve year old now! I have grown my hair out to pretty soon touch my shoulders and fit in a ponytail. Tracy will forever be missed and I know she will miss me. And I will always feel her inside of me when I make the best decisions because I know she would be proud just to see how far I'm come as a wonderful 7th grader.