Duncan McNeil has been growing his hair out for nearly a year, but it’s no fashion statement. It’s so there’s maximum impact when he gets it all shaved off this Sunday at a St. Baldrick’s event at Lynnwood Grill in Raleigh.
This will be Duncan’s third year of participation with St. Baldrick’s, a national charity that asks volunteers to collect donations for childhood cancer research and to shave their heads in solidarity with the young patients the organization aims to help.
Duncan, 12, was inspired to get involved after attending a St. Baldrick’s event to cheer on family members of a neighbor boy who had leukemia. Soon after, he told his parents that he wanted in on the fun.
“We were just very proud of him, that he was willing to do it,” said his mother, Cheryl McNeil.
That first year, Duncan, who lives in Raleigh, raised around $500 for St. Baldrick’s, mostly from friends and family, with help from his parents to spread the word on Facebook. This year, he hopes to raise at least $600.
“I really like the fact that I’m able to help,” he said of why he’s stuck with it, “and it’s also an excuse to go to Lynnwood Grill.”
Since his first shaved head, another young neighbor was diagnosed with leukemia, and a teenage friend of the family died from cancer. It all serves as a reminder to Duncan that there’s something serious behind all the fun, and it’s why he’s not planning to give his hair more than a year of growth anytime soon.
“I want to do (St. Baldrick’s) until I have to go to college,” he said.
By now, Duncan is used to the feeling of a shaved head. And even his first time, he said, he wasn’t terribly nervous.
“It seemed just like getting your hair cut, except your head was just going to be very cold for a while,” he said.
He’s also used to the attention his bald head brings.
“People constantly ask you if they can rub it,” he said.
But a chilly head and a little extra attention are a small price to pay for the big dose of pride he gets from being able to help.
Besides, he doesn’t mind the way he looks with a bald head, and his mom thinks he looks just fine that way, too.
“I’ll get used to him having no hair, and then it’s kind of a shock when he has hair again, just back and forth,” Cheryl McNeil said. “When he gets it long and then shaves it off, there’s a little bit of a shock. But he looks good. He pulls it off.”
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