Gibault pulls together for student fighting cancer

Zac Epplin gets his hair cut by one of his brothers as another brother looks on last week. (Robyn Dexter photo)

Volunteers lined up in the Gibault Catholic High School gymnasium in front of the entire school, waiting to have their hair cut by classmates.

Members of the soccer team, friends and even school principal Russ Hart showed support for one of their own — senior soccer player Zac Epplin, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

The school held an assembly last week in which students could pay $5 to cut the hair of volunteers to raise money for Epplin’s medical costs.

After the students had clipped their peers’ hair, the volunteers had their heads shaved by professional stylists, who volunteered their services for this special assembly.

Beverly Epplin, Zac’s mother, said the support for Zac and their family has been overwhelming and incredible.

“Gibault has really kick-started everything,” she said. “From his friends to his girlfriend… I know it really helps the kids to come to terms with everything by helping the cause.”

The Epplin family found out last week that Zac has a localized tumor that is beatable.

Beverly said the hospital ran tests last Tuesday, and Zac’s bone scan and MRI were both clean.

What he has is known as a localized tumor on his ninth rib, and the cancer cells have not spread to any other parts of his body.

“It’s beatable,” Beverly Epplin said. “We’re going to kill the tumor and then he will have surgery right before Christmas to remove it.”

She said Zac will also have chemotherapy afterwards as a precaution to make sure all the cancerous cells are gone.

The Epplins found out Zac had cancer right around the beginning of the school year when he started playing soccer.

“Coach Tyson is actually my hero,” she said of assistant soccer coach Tyson Coffey. “He noticed that Zac had been fighting a sore ab muscle and we thought it was just because he was playing so much.”

The coach warned Zac that it could be more than a sore muscle after it continued to persist, and they got it looked at on Sept. 9.

“I’m so glad we did, because otherwise I probably would’ve waited until after soccer season,” Beverly said. “It’s been very fast-moving since then.”

Gibault has had dress-down days and other fundraisers to raise money for the Epplin family.

Principal Russ Hart said he would get a mohawk at the head-shaving assembly if the students raised $250, but they had already raised more than $3,000 by the Sept. 18 assembly.

“The support is really giving Zachary strength to fight,” Beverly said. “And he knows there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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