Barber’s shears might seem an unlikely tool in the fight against cancer, but in Clayton, shaving heads has raised a six-figure sum for childhood cancer research.
March 19 will be Clayton’s sixth annual benefit for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which stages hundreds of head-shaving events around the country to raise money to fight pediatric cancer. Participants buzz their heads for donations from friends and family and the community at large. Since 2009, Clayton’s event, organized by Rob Baker, has shaved more than 600 heads and raised more than $300,000.
Baker started Clayton’s event in 2009 when his son Bo, 6 years old at the time and now cancer free, was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumor, a cancer on the kidney.
“With his treatment and chemo, we were spending a lot of time at UNC-Chapel Hill,” Baker said. “I felt so helpless. I wanted to do something that I felt would make a difference.”
Baker said he was drawn to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation because of its reputation for a high percentage of donated money making it to the cause. He compared the fundraising to a bikeathon or charity race, where donors sponsor the participant. The shave, Baker said, helps cancer patients know they’re cared about.
“It’s a shave in solidarity,” Baker said. “It helps kids know that it’s OK to not have hair; it’s nothing to be self-conscious about. It let’s them know they’re being supported.”
Baker said his goal in the first year was to have 20 people shave their head and raise $10,000. When the day came, 120 lost their hair and raised $60,000. The event has fluctuated over the five years, but the record is $85,000.
“It’s remarkable considering the simplicity of it,” Baker said. “People collect money and get their head shaved. Clayton is a small town and we’ve been doing it a while. There are some new people every year, but also some of the same people year in and year out. The town has really supported the cause.
Notable shaves over the years include Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs and Councilman Michael Grannis. The councilman’s wife, Betsy, Grannis, has eclipsed them both. This year will mark her third crew cut and put her fundraising mark at more than $2,000.
Grannis has seen the effect a shaved head has on people; that beyond the bubble of St. Baldrick’s, it generally means more than solidarity.
“There was a very poignant moment in the grocery store one time after shaving my head,” Grannis said. “A man came up to me and said his wife was going through cancer too. He told me to stay strong.”
St. Baldrick’s will be at noon March 19 at Deep River Brewing, 700 W. Main St., downtown Clayton. For more information visitwww.stbaldricks.org/events/clayton2016.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdjackson