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Heads shaved bare to boost foster care

June 06, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HALFWAY -- Cheryl Flook had 567,000 reasons to have her head shaved Saturday at Valley Mall.

Before the last of her freshly dyed red locks dropped to the floor outside the entrance to J.C. Penney, the 52-year-old Hagerstown foster mother made sure the motivation for her shave didn't go unnoticed.

"Hey everybody, this is to raise awareness, that's there's 567,000 foster kids in the U.S., 513 in Washington County alone," Flook shouted. "If you want to be a foster parent, ask one of us."

The spectacle was Flook's idea to raise money for the Washington County League of Foster and Adopted Families and helped kick off the nonprofit organization's annual walk benefit set for June 13.

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While Flook routinely has kept her hair short, she said she didn't know if she wanted to see herself in a mirror after it was done.

Flook's eyes grew wide with surprise as she saw her new, albeit temporary, look.

"Man, I got some ears, don't I," said Flook, who donned a pair of earrings, each bearing the number 567,000.

Her shave, which helped raise more than $1,100, was followed by at least three others, including 9-year-old Damion Kelbaugh of Mercersburg, Pa., who once was in foster care.

Damion, assisted by his mother, Rebecca Otzman, was able to turn in $465 on Saturday. The money will go toward a college scholarship fund for foster children in need.

Impressed by his efforts, Flook dubbed her shave "the Damion cut."

Otzman said her son made quite a few phone calls to friends after first approaching his teacher at school for a contribution.

"This is the first time he's really shown a big interest in anything," Otzman said.

Otzman said she didn't have a very good relationship with her son before he was placed in foster care.

"It was a very good experience for all three of my kids," she said. "He came home a different child."

Mary Patton, president of the Washington County League of Foster and Adopted Families, said Saturday's event was an effort to raise awareness of the need in the community and support for the organization.

"A lot of people don't even know we exist," Patton said. "And it's tough getting funds to do things for the kids."

Flook, who has had 26 children in her home and is hoping to adopt a fourth child, said she long had thought she couldn't be a foster mother.

"I thought you had to be perfect," Flook said. "I thought you had to make a lot of money and (have) a big house."

Acting on a friend's encouragement, Flook said she took the required classes and since has discovered being a foster parent is her ministry.

"It's about making this world a better place," Flook said.

Flook said God made her realize there are more foster children in the nation than the number of hairs on her head.

"And I thought that's an awareness grab, an attention-getter for this -- people would gladly give you money to shave your head," Flook said.

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