Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


March 20, 2014

In bald support

Coaches shave off the top for swimmer fighting cancer

On Monday night, Carlton Cronin sat with a plastic bag over his shoulders and watched as every lock of his hair went floating to the floor.

Within minutes, Cronin, the assistant coach of the Andover/North Andover YMCA’s Hurricanes Swim who grew up in Andover, was the proud wearer of a buzz cut — carried out at the hands of one of his teen swimmers.

He hadn’t lost a bet. In fact, the buzz cut was all his idea.

In a show of solidarity for one of his Hurricanes swimmers, Cronin offered to have Maria Splaine shave his head to support the 16-year-old who has been undergoing treatment for cancer. And he convinced Hurricanes head coach Dan Reilly to sit for a buzz cut from Splaine, too.

Cronin said he wanted to show Splaine, who lost her own hair to chemotherapy treatments, that he and Reilly care about her and to “let her know that she’s loved by many people.” The coaches are also making a $500 donation to the Jimmy Fund in Splaine’s honor.

“It means a lot to me, seeing Maria here and not missing practices, and I know it means a lot to the kids, too,” said Cronin, who is co-owner of Cronin’s Ice Cream in the Ballardvale section of Andover. “You take kids for granted — and you can’t.”

Since being diagnosed last fall with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer, Splaine has been an inspiration to the Hurricanes Swim Team, her coaches said.

Despite being five cycles into her treatments, Splaine, a junior at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen who lives in Merrimac, refuses to miss a Monday practice, never mind take a break from competing, they said.

That fierce determination has led some of the 200 youths on her swim team, including several from Andover, to declare the start of each week “Maria Monday” in celebration of their fellow Hurricanes swimmer and her courage.

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