Shaving Heads to Support Childhood Cancer Research
By Amy Gernon
Published: March 13 2012
A fundraising event in East Northport puts a spotlight on St. Baldrick's Foundation whose mission is to conquer childhood cancer.
By the time Katie Lynn Grossman arrived at Changing Times Ale House in East Northport on Saturday, the line of participants in the St. Baldrick’s Day fundraiser to conquer childhood cancer was already out the door. An astonishing number of young children, as well as a handful of adults, came to Changing Times to donate the money they had raised for the big day, and to possibly raise a few more dollars before they had their heads shaved. And it was clear to anyone in the packed restaurant that these generous folks had experience raising money for St. Baldrick’s…several young men were given “$5 haircuts” and sent around with a green pail to raise more money before the barbers would let them sit back down for clean shave.
Changing Times has been involved in raising funds for St. Baldrick’s Foundation for the past three years. Other local East Northport businesses contributed to the effort. Rockabilly Barbers offered their expertise with electric trimmers, and two adjacent shops, the Chocolate Twist and Tropical Smoothie, donated 20 percent of their daily gross profits directly to St. Baldrick’s.
Dr. Laura Hogan of Stony Brook University Medical Center’s Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, herself a survivor of childhood leukemia, spoke about the importance of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation at the event. “St. Baldrick’s is second only to the federal government in funding childhood cancer research,” she told the excited crowd. Dr. Hogan has personally received two research grants from St. Baldrick’s, both of which have gone to supporting her research on relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of children’s cancer. St. Baldrick’s has recently awarded Stony Brook University’s Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology a grant to fund clinical trials, allowing the division to open even more studies and enroll more children in their life-saving research.
Dr. Hogan’s work, along with that of her colleagues, reminds us of the enormity in curing childhood cancer. There are many distinct forms of cancer, and each requires specialized research. “Saying, ‘I want to cure cancer’ is like saying, ‘I want to cure disease,’” Dr. Hogan said. The grants awarded by St. Baldrick’s makes this specialized research possible.
St. Baldrick’s is a volunteer-driven charity, whose sole commitment is to fund the most promising research leading to cures for childhood cancers. Today the foundation funds more grants in childhood cancer research than any other organization except the United States government. The foundation began as a one-time event in 2000 at the reinsurance company of Tim Kenny and Enda McDonnell, who turned their St. Patrick’s Day office party into a head-shaving event to raise money for children with cancer. Originally, the group planned to raise “$17,000 on the 17th,” but they exceeded their goal by nearly $87,000. The movement eventually became the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for children’s cancer research, and since 2000 more than 189, 660 volunteers (17,200 of them women) have shaved their heads in solidarity with children with cancer. Over $117 million has been raised and redistributed to save lives.
Katie Lynn anxiously twirled her hair in her fingers before taking a seat on stage and having her head shaved in front of an audience of over one hundred people. She personally raised over $500, making this perhaps the most expensive haircut she has ever had. But, for Katie, it was entirely worth it. “I decided to shave my head because it's a great way to raise awareness. When I go to the gym and school today...there will be questions. And when I respond to the, ‘Oh my God, WHY ARE YOU BALD?’ I only hope that that person will go home and donate,” Katie said. And, as for parting with her beautiful, bright red hair: “As attached to my hair as I was, its just hair. It will grow back. I chose this. The kids [who suffer from cancer] don't get to choose.”
Eddie, the organizer of the event at Changing Times in East Northport, could not be reached for comment before the publication of this article.