CHICAGO — Teachers, students and their families at Forest Road School spent Thursday evening before Spring Break giving back.

“We’re celebrating a family that’s near and dear to us,” Sixth grader Joshua Thomas said.

They gathered in honor of their classmate Gwen Coia, who’s been battling cancer for the past year.

“It was just one week after Reese was born, Gwen was really tired, not feeling herself,” Hilary Coia, Gwen’s mother said.

After doctors at Loyola Medicine ran blood work, they diagnosed Gwen with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“This whole year we’ve gotten so much support,” A.J. Coia, Gwen’s father said.

The support was on full display for the school’s annual fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds children’s cancer research.

Gwen followed through on her birthday wish. With clippers in hand, she helped her dad go just about bald. Her mom got a fresh cut, too. And Gwen’s classmates even got in on the action by shaving their heads.

All their hard work raised $30,000 for St. Baldrick’s – and raised spirits, too.

It is something the school has done for more than a decade. In all those years the families and teachers here have raised $400,000 for children’s cancer research.