Shaving for St. Baldrick’s

I was sitting on the couch with my daughters last December when my phone blinked that I had a message. It was Tori Jones, one of our babysitters, who’s actually the older sister of my kids’ best friend.

St. Baldrick’s gives Pat a run for his money

St. Baldrick’s really is named after St. Patrick. The charity
started on a whim in the spring of 2000 when three friends decided
to turn their industry St. Patrick’s Day party into a fundraiser to
benefit kids with cancer. They came up with the shaving idea,
aiming to raise ,000 on the 17th. Instead they raised 4,000,
and an organization was born. Today St. Baldrick’s has raised over
7 million for childhood cancer research, and almost 190,000
people have shaved their heads – including over 17,000 women. To
donate or get involved next year, go to stbaldricks.org

Above: Click on the Video link to see
Homewood-Flossmoor’s principal, after he had gotten his head
shaved, and Tori, who keeps a very brave smile on her face as the
hair is peeled off of her head.

With this message I learned that there’s an organization called St. Baldricks. I learned that it raises money to fund research on childhood cancer. I learned that one of the primary ways it raises money is through “shaving events” in which people shave their heads in exchange for donations. And I learned that Tori was planning to participate. She was going to shave her head.

I blinked. Tori is a beautiful kid with gorgeous hair. And she was shaving it? Yes, my children said. Not only that, she had just dyed it blond.

Two months later, my kids and I stood in the field house of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, watching kids and teachers getting their heads shaved. There were 52 participants, including seven girls (six students, one teacher). Tori, who graduates in June, was among them.

“That’s our highest number for female shavees in of all three events we’ve done,” says Dave Kush, the teacher/advisor to the National Honor Society, which sponsors the event. “It seems like a couple more do it each year. I think that as they see the upperclasswomen do it they are inspired by them. The example these seven set this year has no doubt shown the next group that while it’s a pretty big commitment (and there’s no pretending it’s anything even close to the same thing for the guys and girls) it’s something that’s doable and worth while.”

The event was inspiring. Cameras huddled around the stage in which volunteers from Great Clips in Homewood wielded their shavers. Participants told stories of how cancer touched their lives. And a lot of hair hit the floor. In the process, over $20,000 was raised. Tori, herself, raised over $5,000. Check out the video and pictures to the right. And read my brief interview with Tori below.

So, Tori, how did you hear about this event?

The National Honor Society does St. Baldrick’s every year. One of my friends told me she was planning on doing it and that got me to research it a little bit more and it seemed like such a neat thing, I just wanted to get involved with it.

What did your parents think?

I don’t think they believed me at first. Then they started getting excited about it and they were really supportive.

Did you waver?

Of course. It is kind of a big decision and it’s a lot different, because I was born with an inch of hair. But kids with cancer who have to lose their hair because of chemo, they have all the same worries and doubts but they don’t have the options.

Were you nervous when you did it?

Yes. You see that first really long lock of hair fall and you’re like, “Oh, my God, people are watching. SMILE. Freak out but keep on a nice face for all the cameras.”

How did you feel when you first saw yourself bald?

When I first saw it I was shocked. You can imagine, but you won’t know until you actually see it. I keep touching my head a lot. My mom’s like, “Thank God you have a nice shaped head because you really don’t know until you’re already bald.”

Is your head cold?

Yes. I have six or seven hats. My grandma was furiously knitting me hats.

What’s the most interesting reaction you’ve gotten?

It’s a weird kind of social experiment in its own way. I got different reactions than I was expecting. A lot of my white friends were like, ‘Oh good job’ and a lot of my black friends were like ‘I’d never do that; we’re black, we can’t do that.’ That never really made sense to me. I am half black. It could be a cultural thing about hair. I only saw one black woman who shaved her hair (and that was the teacher).

(When I go out in public) I think people might not question it as much if I looked more African-American. If you’re on the lighter side, then they question it more and think you look like you’re sick.

Do you have plans for head décor?

I have a great hairdresser, she’s shaved her head just for fun. She has lots of great ideas. As it grows in, we can color leopard spots or put in short words, like LOL. I don’t care about my hair super much, I’m not really girly. It will grow back eventually.

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