Head-shaving event aims to raise childhood cancer awareness, donations

This year’s event has a goal of raising more than $50,000.
Casey Purcella / Graphic Designer

There are 160,000 children annually diagnosed with cancer worldwide, according to the St. Baldrick's Foundation. The men and women participating in Saturday’s St. Baldrick’s Foundation event aim to support those children by shaving their heads.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation supports head-shaving events to raise money for Children’s Oncology Group. The idea has spread around the country, and Saturday’s event at Bleu Restaurant will be the second to take place in Columbia.

Several thousand dollars have already been donated on behalf of the head-shaving participants, also called “shavees.” The shavees hope to raise even more money at Saturday’s event.

“I would like to encourage people (to) come to the event because it is very striking to watch men and women shave their heads,” volunteer event organizer Ryan Matthews said. “It is a fun event. We’ll have free food, but proceeds from that evening’s beverage sales will go towards the foundation.”

The money funds a variety of grants supporting the treatment of childhood cancer, said Thomas Loew, MU’s pediatric hematology/oncology division director.

“Last year we raised $27,000,” he said. “For the first year, we were all extremely pleased by that. The goal this year is $50,000.”

Since 2005, St. Baldrick's has generated more than $78 million in research grants for childhood cancer, said Timothy Fete, medical director of MU’s Children's Hospital. Out of all grant dollars for cancer research, only 3 percent is spent on research for childhood cancer.

“It’s the No. 1 killer of children, but it’s not something that we all really talk about,” Matthews said. “The cause is very important.”

Fete said he tries to make the event fun for everyone.

“We try to make it fun,” Fete said. “I’m planning on dying my hair and beard green for pediatric grand rounds on Friday and will have it green for the shaving event on Saturday.”

The shaving experience is different for everybody.

“It makes you bald for a while, but your hair grows back,” Loew said. “For me, the big thing is the mustache. My wife has never known me without my mustache, but our marriage still survives.”

Shaving can be a way to educate others about the importance of funding grants to support childhood cancer, Matthews said.

“I shaved my head last year, which was amazing and very liberating,” she said. “A lot of the time in public, people (would) look at me weird. But the foundation provides pins that say 'Ask Me Why I’m Bald,' so that stirred up a lot of conversation about (childhood cancer).”

The majority of the event is coordinated and driven by MU medical students, Matthews said. The event is something that can be important for both the cause and those involved.

“(The event) provides an outlet for medical students,” she said. “We are very absorbed in school. It is an opportunity for us to step back from the education and remind us why we are going through medical school.”

Loew also said the event is important.

“It’s a lot of fun - it really is - and it’s a nice way to raise money for an excellent cause,” Loew said. “More funds means more cures. Currently we cure 80 percent of our patients, and we want 100 percent.”

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