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Cheers and applause greeted the volunteers stepping up to have their heads shaved during the “Brave the Shave” event held March 1 at Elizabeth High School to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funds more childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the federal government.
Men, women and children, with hair length ranging from long to short to almost none, took turns in the seats as three cosmetologists used their expertise and clippers to send hair by the pound to the floor and leave each individual with a head covered with short stubble described as feeling like a tennis ball.
“This is our second year to hold the St. Baldrick's event here at the high school,” organizer Dani Varela said. “After my granddaughter Cheyenne was diagnosed with cancer three years ago we wanted to do something to help all children with cancer. Our goal this year is to raise $10,000. We have more than $4,000 in donations and pledges. We will be raising funds through the end of March and we hope more donations will keep coming in to hopefully help us try to reach our goal.”
She said when she learned about the St. Baldrick's Foundation and what they do, she decided to try to raise funds for the foundation. She announced the event and said the support by teachers, students and members of the community was awesome and is awesome again this year.
Those who volunteered to give up their hair in the “Brave the Shave” and those who came to watch heard from 13-year-old Cheyenne Dyess what it is like to be a cancer survivor
“I was diagnosed with cancer of the throat the size of a dinner plate,” the girls said. “I went through chemotherapy. Chemo is pretty nasty and made me feel pretty crummy a lot. I finished chemo last summer and was diagnosed as cancer-free but I am still waiting for all the side effects to disappear. But I am doing great. I am in school, playing sports and, of course, doing everything I can to help others who have cancer.”
She said she is glad to be at Elizabeth High School for the St. Baldrick's event to thank everyone who volunteered to have their head shaved and raise money for the foundation.
She greeted each “Brave the Shave” volunteer, including Dani Varela, her grandmother and her 81-year-old great-grandmother.
Jacob Williams was one of the first volunteers to have his head shaved.
“I did this last year, I needed a haircut so I decided to do it again this year,” the Elizabeth High School junior said after all his hair was on the floor. “This time I knew what to expect so it wasn't a surprise. I love to have this opportunity to give back to people and to support people who are battling cancer so I signed up again. I raised $25 in donations and I only wish it was more.”
The list of volunteers included two Elizabeth police officers, parents, teachers, students and the Moser family. One dad also sported a beard and he said he would have it shaved off for a $100 donation to St. Baldrick's. The audience responded, the $100 was raised in minutes and the beard joined the other hair on the floor.
Sara Mosher and her 5-year-old and 6-year-old sons had their heads shaved.
“My mom had terminal cancer and wanted to have her head shaved. That didn't happen so the boys and I decided to have our heads shaved,” Mosher said. “Last year my boys, Ryker, Alexander and I talked about getting our heads shaved. The boys watched the video about childhood cancer and the St. Baldrick's Foundation and we decided to be 'Brave the Shave' volunteers as a family.”
Alexander, 6, said getting his head shaved was fun.
“It didn't hurt and it felt sort of funny as she was doing it,” the 6-year-old said. “All my hair is gone and my head sort of feels like it is wet and the air feels kinda of funny on my head now.”
The women who were shaving heads, Tricia Ackerman, Hannah Offutt and Megan Boyer, were also volunteers.
“Dani asked me if I would like to shave heads, I said yes and I am doing this in honor of Dani's late granddaughter Kayla,” Ackerman said. “I work for the school district and I also have my own shop here in Elizabeth. I am glad Dani asked me to help with the project because I quickly found that doing this is fun. I like talking to the volunteers as I shave their heads. I think it is interesting to see that girls are getting their heads shaved as well as boys.”
She said after having their heads shaved most students say it feels strange and prickly like Velcro.
“They say it feels very different having a shaved head instead of a head full of hair,” she said. “But, without exception, every volunteer says they are glad they volunteered for the St. Baldrick's event and raised money to fund research to find a cure for childhood cancer.”
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