#BootStompCancer campaign gains nationwide support

Norwich University Cadet Michael Heimall never expected his cancer awareness campaign to support his brother would gain nationwide support.
But it has, in a big way.

While eating lunch with his platoon in early February, Heimall received a text from his brother Christian. The text showed a picture of his brother’s hair on a pillow, a result from his brother’s chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system.
As part of an earlier family agreement, Heimall decided that he would shave his head along with the rest of his family if Christian started losing hair during chemotherapy, as a way of showing support for his brother.
“I was sitting there with a couple of my freshmen cadets and I had this idea,” Heimall said. “I want to shave my head, but I want people to do it with me.”
Heimall’s idea would materialize into the #BootStompCancer campaign, named after a saying Christian often would use while undergoing treatment for his cancer.
The #BootStompCancer campaign was designed to spread awareness about cancer through Michael’s donations and pictures of people with shaved heads.
Volunteers would have their hair shaved off their head with clippers on the top floor of Alumni Hall and have a picture taken of them with the caption #BootStompCancer.
For every person who shaved their head, Heimall would donate $10 dollars to the Headstrong Fund, a charity for cancer research that Christian preferred because of his relations to the creator, and a fellow cancer patient, Nick Colleluori.
Heimall expected that most of the people who would volunteer for the awareness campaign would be from his Corps of Cadets platoon, and also maybe his company.
“I expected to get about 15 or 20 people at most,” Heimall said. “The fact that it blew up to 214 people was incredible.”
As the campaign started, more people began to participate, according to Heimall.
“A bunch of people ended up coming to the top deck of Alumni where I was shaving my head so we brought out a couple chairs and clippers, then other people brought out their clippers, and we ended up with this huge shaving party on the top deck of Alumni,” he said.
Recognizing the social media success of the Ice Bucket challenge, a campaign spreading awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease, Heimall began promoting the #BootStompCancer campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
“It got a huge response not only from the Norwich community, but also individuals all across the country,” Heimall said.
The awareness campaign received considerable support outside of the Norwich student body. Supporters included parents of students, family friends and school staff and faculty, Heimall said.
Heimall also received support in donations from Norwich University President Richard W. Schneider and Chief of Staff of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, Col. Michael Amaral.
Between those donations (made directly to the Headstrong Fund) and our donations, we raised over $4,500 dollars,” Michael said.
Over half of the funds acquired were made on the first day of the campaign.
The #BootStompCancer campaign hair shaving ended after two days, lasting from February 19 to 20, because of the work it took from volunteers helping to sustain the campaign, according to Heimall. But pictures of shaved heads continued to be submitted until Feb. 22.
“We had to limit it to two days because of the strain it was putting on the individuals shaving heads and the individuals living on the deck with all of the noise and commotion going on,” he said.
With the large success of the #BootStompCancer campaign, Michael hopes to start another awareness campaign again but with more planning involved to raise more money toward donations.
“(The campaign) put a big smile on my brother’s face. Anytime someone’s going through an ordeal like his, the least I can do is to make my brother happy and more comfortable knowing that his personal goal of raising awareness about cancer is not being done by himself, and that the cause is alive and well, it felt good to me,” Michael said.
“I’m trying to thank everyone who was involved, but there doesn’t seem to be enough ways to just thank everyone for everything they’ve done, “Michael said.
“It was incredibly emotional for me to see the community come together and rally around this singular cause from people I didn’t even know or know me or my family, it was incredible to see,” he said.


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