As freshman psychology major Lauren Lee took the stage in the Student Center Pit for St. Baldrick’s Day, she was prepared to lose her hair for a cause that would hopefully help prevent childhood cancer patients from losing a lot more.
In the last group to participate, Lee was a shavee with close personal ties to childhood cancer.
“My little sister beat leukemia for the third time a year ago [from] last month,” Lee said. “She started her fight when she was five and now she’s 10.”
Adding even more to her drive to participate in the event was the cancer-related death of her sister’s friend. Very emotional both before and after her shave, Lee sported a gold flowered headband, the color for childhood cancer awareness, to show her support for the cause that is dear to her.
The crowd stood up and cheered while Lee’s group of women were on stage, and her tears were met with their support.
Student University Programmers worked with the Rowan community to raise well over their established goal of $30,000 for the fourth-annual St. Baldrick’s Day event through the efforts of volunteers, donors and over 60 shavees.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an organization with the primary goal of raising money for pediatric cancer research. It has been doing so for 14 years. St. Baldrick’s became a part of the Rowan community in 2011. Participants included students, faculty, alumni, coaches, athletes, Greeks and both men and women. They lined up on stage throughout the event to shave their heads on March 25, and donate the money they raised.
Each year, St. Baldrick’s becomes a bigger event within the Rowan community, raising more money and having more participants than previous years, all with the same goal of finding a cure for childhood cancers through their efforts and loss of locks. During its first year at Rowan, St. Baldrick’s Day brought in over $13,000, which was topped with ease the following year, bringing in over $17,000. In 2013, St. Baldrick’s had its most successful event, having over 50 shavees and raising over $20,000, until this year.
While each shavee had his or her own personal goal to reach, this year’s St. Baldrick’s Day participants surpassed the overall goal of $30,000 the night before the event, causing staff to raise the already-intense goal of $30,000 to $35,000 at the start of the event. As donations poured in from supporters of the shavees, halfway through the night, the new goal was surpassed again, hitting an all-time high of $35,869.20.
First-year SUP Director of Signature Events, Carly Samuels organized the event and pushed the goal even further, up to $40,000 during the event, with very few hours to go. In the end, the total raised was $38,360.12.
Prior to, Samuels spent time advertising the event, trying to get new participants and volunteers to show up, spreading the word and the multiple ways to participate in the event other than shaving their heads.
“Beating our goal was absolutely awesome, it was amazing,” Samuels said. “But seeing all the different people from different groups around Rowan showing support was really something else.”
Samuels took special interest in St. Baldrick’s Day this year due to recent events. Samuels was a caregiver to an infant named Brooke who was diagnosed with cancer.
“Brooke was fine and then we noticed she wasn’t herself,” Samuels said. “She was normally smiling and happy but she was achy and tired all the time.”
They found out the infant had a case of cancer that was so rare it became a nationally recognized case. After countless trips to the hospital with Brooke, Samuels knew St. Baldrick’s was her chance to make a difference.
“Being in a hospital with Brooke, I saw what kind of world it sends you into,” Samuels said. “Once I saw that I had the power with this position to help these people, I jumped right in and decided $30,000 was the starting goal.”
To keep the event moving along as groups of shavees were switched on the stage, and the barbers worked to keep their tools cleaned, an auction took place following the tradition of years before. Many autographed items such as music posters, a guitar and art were auctioned in a raffle to help hold interest and bring in more donations. Music was played along with videos of various families and children struggling with cancer and even cancer survivors.
But what really held the crowd’s attention was the event host, Rowan alumn and former graduate coordinator for SUP, Lauren Thompson, who took the stage of what she called her second home.
“See, lady shavees? It does grow back,” Thompson said, showing her wavy, medium-length blonde hair which was shaved off during her participation in the first Rowan St. Baldrick’s Day back in 2011.
In 2010, Thompson’s mother passed away from cancer, which prompted her participation in the event.
“This is one of my favorite events that Rowan has ever done,” Thompson said. “It’s just one of the most phenomenal events ever.”
As the first group of shavees took the stage, Thompson kept emotions light, joking with participants and warning them it might get cold later in the night but also reminding them of her first-hand knowledge that hats are just as good as hair for warmth.
Two of the first females to take the stage were sophomore friends and music education majors Darrah Maffettone and Juli Crescenzo, shaving their heads alongside Crescenzo’s father and Rowan alum Warren Crescenzo.
Thompson asked most of the shavees why they chose to participate. Giving one the most honest answers of the night was Juli Crescenzo who said “Because cancer sucks,” causing the room to erupt with cheering.
While the reasons varied, some stories were more personal.
Jerald Wesley, a junior mechanical engineer student, grew his hair out specifically for this event. His reasoning was remembering a boy from his sixth grade class who had passed away from cancer.
“I’ve also had a lot of family members battle with cancer,” Wesley said. “All of my grandparents have had some form of it along with aunts and uncles. Luckily they pulled through and are fine.”
Helping Wesley in his efforts to raise money for the event were seven other members of his fraternity Phi Kappa Psi. As a team, the guys brought in $1,641.27.
However, not all participants were on a team or shaved their heads with friends. Some participated individually, braving the stage and the razors alone.
Junior theatre arts major Constanze Keller was one of individual shavees. Participating alone challenged her to work harder, raising as much money as possible for the foundation. In the weeks leading up to the event, Keller spent time in many places around campus with a jar of Hershey’s Kisses, offering them to anyone who donated money to the cause, no matter how big or small. In a last effort to raise even more, Keller attended Landmark Americana Tap & Grill’s widely attended Mexican Monday to get more donations. The DJ made an announcement and people throughout the bar began donating, whether they knew her or not, bombarding her with donations and support.
“I did all of this because cancer is terrible, but childhood cancer is simply unfair,” Keller said. “Children aren’t supposed to die, they’re supposed to live. So I want to get more birthdays for children.”
Many participants had messages for why they chose to shave their heads as opposed to just donating money to the cause, Lee’s being one of the most personal.
“My little sister is very self-conscious,” Lee said. “Her hair is really short so she wears a hat all the time. I just thought, and hope, that if I walk around bald that she’ll feel more OK about herself.”
In an attempt to raise more awareness to beauty not coming from superficial things like hair, Lee even started using a social media hashtag “#BaldIsBeautifulCancerIsNot.”
Thanks was given to the time and talents of the barbers at Hair 2 There, located in Glassboro, and the efforts of the selfless shavees and the Rowan community. This St. Baldrick’s Day was the most successful, raising hopes that next year will be even better, with more participants, more money and hair donated and more support for the children fighting for another birthday.
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