It takes a special kind of person to be able to safely drive an 8-foot wide, 40-foot long,  23,500-pound vehicle full of school kids. It takes an even more special kind of person to be able to do that and to not just connect with the kids they transport but to also leave a stamp on their hearts. Bruce Zimmer, a bus driver for Gilbertsville- Mount Upton has done that.

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In 1999, Zimmer’s little friend Cassie was battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia and she laid begged Zimmer to let her shave his head. That December, Zimmer finally caved and let Cassie take the clippers to his head. Two weeks later, Cassie lost her fight against cancer.

In the summer of 2001, Zimmer shaved his head again while he was working at Camp Dost, a camp for kids with pediatric cancer. Zimmer shaved his head so that he’d fit in with the kids and his head shaving became a tradition that he allowed the camp kids to help him with each summer for the next five years.

Zimmer soon realized that he could shave his head in a show of support for kids with cancer and raise funds at the same time if he were to do it through St. Baldrick’s. And so, for the third year, Zimmer will be shaving his head to raise money for kids fighting cancer. His heart for sick kids has made an incredible impact on the kids he drives to and from school as well as their parents. So much of an impact that he now has his own team.

This year, Zimmer will be joined by three children who are forming "Team Bruce" and each team member will also shave their heads. Team Bruce includes Zimmer, second-graders, Lily and Dylan, and a third-grader named Caden.

Lee Mangiamele
Lee Mangiamele

Lee Mangiamele is the parent of one of the kids that Zimmer transports to and from school and she shared with us Zimmer’s story and what it means to the kids that he interacts with every day:

Bruce Zimmer is an amazing man. He is my kids bus driver and ALL the kids (pre-K through 12th grade) on the bus LOVE him. He makes the trip to and from school full of fun, playing trivia games and sharing awareness days with the kids. He never misses a holiday and a chance to spread joy, from making them homemade cookies to handing out candy canes and even wearing a Santa hat during the month of December! Last year he told the kids on a Friday that they were going to have a new bus driver on Monday. The kids came home SO sad on a Friday! They moped around all weekend and several parents, not just myself, had to drag the kids out of bed and force them onto the bus Monday morning! With tears in my daughters eyes and my older son dragging his feet it broke my heart to watch them get on the bus that day. I will never in my life forget that weekend. I didn't realize until then how much my kids cared about their driver, to them, he is the best part of their day. Lucky for ALL of us the kids called me at work ecstatic that afternoon telling me that they still have Bruce, he played a trick on them all and shaved his head and beard! None of us knew he was shaving his head to raise money for childhood cancer. So here we are, Bruce is doing it again! He is shaving his head and beard to raise money for Childhood Cancer Research and I just want to spread the word and get him as many donations as possible, it is the only way I know how to show Bruce how much he means to our school, our children and our tiny community!

Every two minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer and more kids die from childhood cancer than from any other disease. This is your chance to make a difference in the world, and to show Zimmer and Team Bruce appreciation for being such positive influences.

If you would like to donate to Zimmer’s St. Baldrick’s fundraiser you can do that here. You can also stop by the American Legion Post 189 at 29 Sheldon Street in Norwich at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 to show Team Bruce how much they're loved and appreciated.

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