Community Keeps Clay Center Boy Battling Cancer "Tiger Tough"

CLAY CENTER, Kan. (WIBW) - They alternately call it fuzzy, prickly or just plain wierd.

Some of the boys in Mr. Foster's second grade class at Lincoln Elementary School in Clay Center are still adjusting to their newly-shaved hairdos, but they wouldn't have it any other way.

The students say they are bald by choice to honor a classmate who didn't get to choose when it came to losing his hair.

Seven-year-old Luke Hauserman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Aug. 28. He spent a week in the hospital getting tests and the initial treatments that would eventually cause him to lose his hair. He says the week was hard because he had to endure "lots of needles."

For his parent, Anjanette and Chris, it was scary. Chris said he felt for his son, who was losing part of his childhood to cancer treatment. He also felt fear of all the unknowns creep in, such as whether the treatment would be successful.

Anjanette posted a request on Facebook for prayers and says what happened next is beyond anything she ever imagined.

"A whole community came together to support us," she said.

First in line was the Clay Center High School football team. They posed for their team photo with a banner declaring luke "Tiger Tough." The banner hung in Luke's hospital room and, now, is in his bedroom at home. At last week's homecoming game, they invited Luke to be their honorary captain, taking him on the field to do the coin toss. Luke said the experience was "cool" because he got to be next to the football players, in whose footsteps he hopes to one day follow.

"Luke is Tiger Tough" also is emblazoned on special bracelets sold by his baseball team. The bracelets are purple for Luke's favorite team, Kansas State. Chris says the family has season tickets and, for a recent game, requested a seating change to accommodate the wheelchair Luke sometimes uses, due to the chemo's affects on his spine and feet. Several days later, they were surprised to get in the mail an autographed photo of Coach Bill Snyder, along with a personal note from Snyder urging Luke to keep fighting.

On top of all that, his school's other second grade class spearheaded a Lemonade for Luke fundraiser. The family also has received other gifts and donations, all of which they call overwhelming.

And all of which led to an event a couple weeks ago, where some 20 of Luke's friends - and several of their dads - decided to shave their heads. Luke's friends say they did it to show their support for Luke and let him know he was not alone.

Luke, for his part, said it's funny to see them all bald now!

Chris says that is the attitude his son had kept throughout the past weeks. He says Luke is always outgoing and loves to be around people.

The people who have gathered around the family, he and Anjanette say, are a blessing.

"I have never felt so much love and caring," Anjanette said.

Anjanette likens the journey to that of a chrysalis. That's what Luke is right now, she says, and he will get through it to become a beautiful butterfly.

His parents say Luke's prognosis is good. Luke is responding to weekly chemotherapy but will continue it for several more months, traveling to Children's Mercy in Kansas City. With his immunity low, he often stays home from school.

But his chair is never empty. His class has a stuffed monkey saving his place. Classmates take it to recess and other activities, so Luke's spot is never open.

Luke says he's feeling good these days and wants his friends to know the most important lessons of all - to keep trying and be tough.

If you'd like to help the Hauserman family, you may send donations in care of Luke Hauserman to United Bank and Trust, 502 Lincoln Ave. P.O. Box 514, Clay Center, KS 67432.