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Imagine being 13 years old, in eighth grade, and every step you took brought intense pain. That was Nathan Bojan’s life.

A trip to an orthopedist and the Bojans had an answer: Nathan had a condition called Tarsal Coalition—the abnormal connection of two bones in the foot. Where people normally have tissue between bone, Nathan had none. Each step was agony.

Soon after the diagnosis, Nathan had his first surgery, but it did not resolve the problem. Over the course of the next few years, he underwent a total of six operations, each with varying recovery schedules, all of which involved getting around on a scooter, hours of physical therapy and plenty of time off his feet.

After a trip to Israel this past summer, he developed a blood blister on his right ankle that turned into cellulitis and a strep infection where a screw had been surgically implanted—an infection so serious that it could have killed him. Fortunately, he fully recovered, though he spent his birthday in August in the hospital.

Throughout Nathan’s ordeal, Friendship Circle of Wisconsin—a division of Lubavitch of Wisconsin—served as a staunch support system. Volunteers visited the hospital, bringing food and reading material, and helped with whatever needs the family required.

And now Nathan, 16, wants to give back.

In January, he and his mother will travel to Florida to participate in a half-marathon—that’s 13.1 miles!—to raise money for Milwaukee’s Friendship Circle. It’s particularly meaningful since walking has been one of the most difficult challenges Nathan has faced. He will walk, however, slowly, with his mom by his side.

“Raising money for Friendship Circle is extremely important to me,” he says. “I want to see our Milwaukee group grow. It needs to reach every person who could benefit from it. I want to be a part of that.”

(Photo: Chana Franck)
(Photo: Chana Franck)

Michal Tenenbaum was filled with anticipation, wondering how long it would take for her hair to grow.

Tenenbaum, a 12th-grader at Beth Rivkah Ladies College—a Chabad school in Melbourne, Australia—hadn’t cut her hair since November and still hadn’t reached her goal of a 10-centimeter (almost 4-inch) braid. That’s how long hair needs to be, once it is cut, before it can be used to make a wig.

Tenenbaum had made a pledge to donate her tresses to Zichron Menachem, an Israeli nonprofit charity that provides wigs to children suffering the effects of cancer.

Tenenbaum wasn’t alone in her quest, not by any stretch. When a few students in Beth Rivkah toyed with the idea late last year, they didn’t realize that they would ignite a school-wide campaign that ended with the thud, thud, thud of freshly-shorn plaits piling up on tables in front of a school assembly. In addition to her two sisters, Tenenbaum was joined by 150 of her peers, who supported and encouraged each other throughout the long wait for their hair to grow.

When the deadline arrived on Sept. 28, six pairs of barber scissors glinted in the hands of the schoolteachers on the stage, and in front of them, six empty chairs faced the assembly. A representative of Zichron Menachem thanked the girls for their contributions, explaining just how much of a difference hair makes to those who have lost so much.

And then it was time. Wave after wave of girls came to the stage, and with trepidation—but above all, pride—they took their seats as their teachers snipped the locks they were preoccupied with for so long. Bursts of applause sounded each time the blades flashed and cut, as the girls gasped and giggled.

When the scissors finally fell silent, the tally for the hair to be donated stood at a staggering 148 feet. Most of that will go directly to making the wigs, and hair that fell short of the 10-centimeter target will be sold by Zichron Menachem to raise funds.

However, the teachers haven’t packed away their ad hoc barber shop just yet: Some girls have already started growing their hair out again.

(Photo: Chana Franck)
(Photo: Chana Franck)
(Photo: Chana Franck)
(Photo: Chana Franck)
(Photo: Chana Franck)
(Photo: Chana Franck)