Today is a sunscreen-or-cap day for Analy High Principal Chris Heller and a dozen fellow faculty members, who were shaved bald Thursday to the delight of a colleague convinced that such caring helps as he strives to reclaim his health and his hair in a match with cancer.
"It's too much!" a beaming Ryan Stevens said at the noontime "Shave 2 Save" clipper fest on the Sebastopol school's quad.
"I feel a lot of love and prayer," the sidelined wrestling coach and Spanish teacher said, gazing over the large, sun-washed gathering of students and staffers.
The fundraising spectacle followed good news from his last diagnostic scan: "The brain tumors are shrinking," Stevens said.
His wife, Jaredel, and his parents, Jim and Eldona Stevens, and other members of his large family came with him to Analy. It was a stirring moment for the 35-year-old father of four and his clan when he was greeted back onto campus by a great, Tigers roar.
"It's amazing. I'm speechless," Jaredel Stevens said from her husband's side. "I'm feeling it. We're seeing miracles."
People from several facets of Ryan Stevens' life — wrestlers and coaches, the Sebastopol community, fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have rallied and raised relief money since word spread that he struggles with advanced-stage melanoma.
For the Analy benefit, male teachers and administrators agreed to have their heads or facial hair shaved if donors would fill two five-gallon water bottles with money to help the Stevenses cover medical expenses and get by.
Well before Thursday, the bottles brimmed with cash.
When the lunch bell rang, a couple of professional barbers stood ready in the quad to help some pre-selected students wield the clippers.
Analy students and employees roared as the moustache that teacher David Vice wore for 30-plus years flitted to the concrete.
Teacher Bryan Carter emerged from the barber's chair with the word "SWAG" trimmed onto the back of his head.
Once Principal Heller was buzzed, Ryan Stevens called him over and helpfully applied sunscreen to his suddenly exposed pate.
A number of students approached Stevens to hug him, shake his hand and tell him they miss him and look forward to him returning to school. "I do plan to be back next year," he said.
Student Andrew Wollmer, a senior, took Spanish from Stevens and holds him up as his favorite teacher.
"I could go in and talk to him about girls and he'd give me the best advice," said the 18-year-old. "Of all the people who deserve to be helped, he's the one. He's been there for everyone."
Another senior, Ryan Rypka, 17, wrestled for Stevens for three years.
"He's phenomenal," Rypka said as the 13 sheared adults went curiously, reluctantly in search of mirrors. "He's a coach and a friend to everybody."
Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees
Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.
The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.
There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.