Logan Hall-Potvin holds a "Burke Strong" sign

Bald for Burke Draws Huge Support

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Thursday April 24, 2014

Sometimes the heart of a community beats quietly. But recently, the extended South Burlington school community’s heart has roared in support of SBHS Principal Patrick Burke, who was diagnosed with a treatable form of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in March.

Anyone who has had a connection to SBHS knows that it is a unique high school in many ways, but it is the spirit of the place that graduates take with them when they leave, and remember with fondness as they look back.  And behind that spirit is Principal Burke; in the lives of many students and families there is no better cheerleader.  Now the tables have turned, and Burke is finding himself on the receiving end of a strong message of love and encouragement from students, faculty and staff.  The support is pouring in from near and far, as past graduates and well wishers from all walks of life have logged on to the you tube video featuring over  1000 members of  the SBHS school community lip synching the popular song ‘Happy’ .  This uplifting and fun message created for Burke has gone viral, receiving thousands of hits in just days.  You can find the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ylyKrw2sv0

Last week nearly $3,000 was raised during the Bald For Burke event which was sponsored by the high school  Boys and Girls Ice Hockey teams.  Funds, which will be donated to the Hope Lodge were raised through t-shirt sales, and the SB Staff Challenge to go Bald! 

Just how many are sporting the new do in support of Burke?  Over 60 students and staff from the high school and FHTMS went “bald” and 30 more students received blue hair extensions to show their support. 

SBHS Alumni volunteers from  O’Briens Aveda Institute Barbering Program stepped forward to sheer the locks led by Kristina Perren Hermanson ‘06.   Kristin Manfredi ‘07, Kelsey Sageman ‘10,and  Stacey Savage ‘89 kept the clippers running along with Brandie Bessette, Dannis Hackney, Will McDonald, Heather Yandow. Robin McManus from Nail Goddess also volunteered.

For more information on upcoming events, or if you wish to donate, go to the high school website sbhs.sf.sbschools.net.

Logan Hall-Potvin, a senior, captured the event in photographs and eloquently expressed his support in a blog dedicated to ‘Burke’.  He graciously shares his thoughts :

There Is a Reason, Logan Hall-Potvin

There is a reason why over 60 people shaved their heads. There is a reason why our school created the lip dub. There is a reason why our student body has been so united. And there is a reason why South Burlington is the best high school in the state. That reason is—Mr. Burke.

Thousands and thousands of students have come and gone through the halls of SBHS under Mr. Burke’s leadership, and I am lucky enough to say that I am one of them. He has also been here for all 5 of my siblings and knows all of them personally—which is pretty impressive! But even beyond my large family is the family of Rebels. I cannot begin to fathom how he does it, but Mr. Burke builds meaningful relationships with almost every member of the student body year after year. Well, maybe I can. Once in a blue moon, a community is blessed to come across someone who has an aura about them that is warm, welcoming, and heartfelt.  Combine that with selflessness, a tremendous hunger for the growth of students, and a humble persona, you have the quintessential human being. Those who know him can support me in saying that I have just broken the ice in describing Mr. Burke.

His excitement, his drive for success, and his vast knowledge are some of the things that stick out to me when I think of Mr. Burke. He always knows what’s going on in his school, he pushes his colleagues and students to try new things and be as successful as they can be, and he is a firm believer that every single student on this planet has the potential to be something great. It is incredible to watch Mr. Burke almost go beyond the realm of a principal and into that of being a father figure to students.

Unfortunately, as life has taught me in the past few months, sometimes things happen to people that don’t deserve it. Mr. Burke’s announcement of his cancer certainly had me in tears upon reading it, but he has reminded me to focus on the positives, and that is why I am writing this. I feel as though it is during times of hardship that our minds tend to highlight feelings of admiration for people. This has been the case for me during the unfortunate passing of my father on New Year’s Day, and now this bump in the road for Mr. Burke. I still remember turning around at my father’s service and seeing Mr. Burke standing there, with his face ringing of compassion and hope as he said, “We’re all here for you.” Those simple words still echo in my head every single time I think about my father. And that is because I knew he meant them. Even today, tears come to my eyes when I think about how selfless a principal can be to go out of his way for just one student. He constantly praises my photography, provides me grounds to promote it and therefore improve it. He asks about my family, and how everyone is doing. It’s the simple things like this that make me and hundreds of other students view Mr. Burke as a superhero.

At Mr. Canon’s service last year, Mr. Burke asked students what they thought a superhero was and opened it up to Twitter. I didn’t have a Twitter account at the time, so Mr. Burke, I finally give you my response:

A person does not need a cape to be a superhero. Real superheroes are people who strive to impact their community in a positive way. Superheroes are people that inspire others to be like them. Superheros are people that are always there for others, even when it is not easy for them to be. Superheroes are people that others can root for when bad things happen. So Mr. Burke, I can speak on behalf of many students when I say that you are our definition of a superhero. We are all rooting for you, we all love you, and we are all going to remain “Burke Strong.”