A pile of hair clippings mounds beneath barber chairs on the karaoke stage at Lola’s Bar and Grill in Jackson, Tenn. as patrons add a new “spirit” to their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. A cheering crowd, some clutching their traditional mugs of green beer, surrounds the barbers as two more volunteers mount the thrones and watch their hair fall to the floor.
The 16 volunteers from Jackson were only a handful out of the thousands across the country who shaved their heads bald to raise money for children’s cancer research with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. This unique fund-raising event throws a twist on the traditional St. Patrick’s Day festivities to raise money for research organizations committed to finding a cure for childhood cancers.
Shavees encourage donations from their family, friends and colleagues by asking the simple question, “How much would you like to see me shave my head bald for childhood cancer research?” Pledges are promoted by word of mouth as well as websites and blogs, like MySpace.
Why bald? By shaving their heads completely bald, participants not only raise money from friends who would love to see them complete the dare, but also show solidarity with the thousands of children who have involuntarily lost their hair from chemotherapy.
St. Baldrick’s began in 1999 when three buddies from New York decided it was time to give something back to their community. John Bender, Enda McDonnell and Tim Kenny set a goal of “$17,000 on the 17th of March” by recruiting 17 colleagues to each raise $1,000. The first St. Baldrick’s event well exceeded their expectations: the three reinsurance executives helped raise over $104,000. The primary beneficiary of the event is CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation, an organization focused on solely supporting life-saving research and treatment of childhood cancer.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation states: “The foundation supports cooperative research on a national scale to help doctors work together to develop the best treatments for all children with cancer. St. Baldrick’s research grants help fill crucial funding gaps at medical institutions where children are treated for cancer, ensuring the finest care for every child.”
Since that first event, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has shaved over 26,000 heads, (2,000 of whom were women) and raised over $20 million. Events have been held internationally in Argentina, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Iraq, Ireland, Poland and the United Kingdom.
The foundation has even attracted the attention of Hollywood, recruiting celebrity shavees Michael Douglas, Jay Leno, NASCAR driver Damon Lusk, magician David Blaine, Eddie McGee and Jason Kidd from Big Brother, and Aaron Ward, former Carolina Hurricanes Player, now with the New York Rangers.
Volunteers all kinds come together to make the events a success. Even those individuals who are queasy about losing their hair, can donate time, barber services, venue, door prizes and many other things.
This year, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has events planned in Denver, West Palm Beach, St. Louis, Savannah, Las Vegas and most other large cities. To find a local event, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has a schedule available online. Add a new tradition to your green beer and Irish festivities, and give children with cancer a chance to create some traditions too.