High school club's focus: cancer awareness

Huntington Beach High School's American Cancer Society Club wants people's hair, money and attention.

The group, started by 17-year-old Ema Romberg, will hold its second Locks of Love hair drive and cancer awareness event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 31.

Those hoping to give a piece of themselves to Locks of Love can get their hair cut by professional hairdressers set up at Gibbs Park. People can also donate in a less-personal way by purchasing snow cones and baked goods — the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

Ema, the club president, started the high school organization last year with the help of English teacher Rosanna Harshman. The teen's goal was to make her peers aware of the illness, which had recently become a part of her life because people around her were developing the disease.

"I knew what cancer was, but it never affected me personally, and then all of a sudden it did," the graduating senior said. "It kind of hit me all at once."

Ema said she started the club at her school in honor of two fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Huntington Beach.

Chrysa Holdaway, 49, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. Her husband, Jim, 57, has non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Ewing's sarcoma, and is recovering from surgery he underwent last year.

Holdaway met Ema at a camp retreat years after her diagnosis. The friends have stayed in contact, attending various cancer-awareness events together.

"Anytime there's any opportunity to raise money to help with cancer research, she was just right on top of it," Holdaway said of Ema. "And seeing her get other kids in high school to join in, that was pretty amazing."

Holdaway, who is now in remission, said she is proud of Romberg's accomplishments and admires her passion.

"She's one in a billion, and she has an enthusiasm that spreads to younger and older people," Holdaway said. "She's very rare because she (is) able to very unselfishly look out and see what could be done, and she actually does it."

Ema is graduating from Huntington Beach High School in June and will be attending Brigham Young University-Hawaii in the fall to study public relations. She said she wants to "hopefully work for a hospital promoting their events."

"So kind of like the club, but on a bigger scale," Ema said. "Doing this made me realize that this is what I enjoy doing and that's what I can see myself doing for a while."



Who: Huntington Beach High School's American Cancer Society Club

What: Second annual Locks of Love hair donation drive and cancer awareness event

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 31

Where: Gibbs Park, 16641 Graham St., near Heil Avenue

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