Clumps of hair fell to the ground on a warm March afternoon as more than 100 volunteers went bald in public.
Clayton’s fifth annual fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – held March 22 and coordinated by Amy and Rob Baker – raised more than $60,000, for a grand total of $322,000 in five years for childhood cancer research.
Amy Baker addressed the crowd gathered in the parking lot at The Flipside in downtown Clayton, saying “175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, y’all. That’s a huge number.” Baker then told the audience how much the head-shaving events had raised in prior years.
The crowd cheered.
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“When we started this five years ago,” Baker continued, “Rob said, ‘Maybe we’ll raise some money,’ and $300,000 later, we are so appreciative.”
The crowd sent up a wild applause.
Xander Pond, 9, was the first to undergo the shears. He went bald “to help kids with cancer, cause I went through it two times in a row,” he said.
The two-time cancer survivor was diagnosed at age 7 and again at age 8. Doctors declared him cancer free on March 4, according to his dad, James Pond.
Xander raised about $200 for Kids for a Cure, the team led by 11-year-old Bo Baker, who is also a cancer survivor. Bo, the second shavee of the day, shaved his head in memory of his friend, Cameron Jackson, who died of cancer.
Dave Brown, the event’s emcee, kept the crowd laughing with his jokes. He said to the longish-haired Bo as he sat to get shaved, “Bo, you look like you’ve been growing your hair out since last time you were here.”
When Bo said he was $20 away from his fund-raising goal, Brown handed him $20.
“There you go, here’s $20,” Brown said. “You’ve reached your goal.”
Heidi Muller was the first female to go under the shears. The cheery senior at Corinth Holders High School grinned as Brown asked her if she was nervous about parting with her soft, brown locks.
“Not really, no,” she said. “I’m really excited.”
Her expression changed as the shears cut their first swath down her scalp, but her smile returned for the duration. She had raised about $1,600 for St. Baldrick’s.
When she was bald, Brown said: “Look at that beautiful, round head. That’s perfect. It’s beautiful. Let’s give it up for Heidi.”
Her supporters – roughly 14 people from her school, church and family – sent up a loud cheer.
Another female to shave her head was Lee Pompey, a stage four breast cancer patient; cancer has spread throughout her body.
“This is her second go-around,” said her daughter, Abby Pompey. “Now it’s in the bone, and she has six tumors.”
Radiation treatment had left Pompey bald in spots, and she had been wearing scarves to cover her head.
She was ready to have it all gone.
“I figured today I could benefit two different things: shave my hair off and raise some money for St. Baldrick’s for children with cancer,” Pompey said. “I can’t think of anything more unfair” than childhood cancer.
“There are a few times last year that I got lumps in my throat, and it’s because of people like this,” Brown said. “Thank you. Miss Lee, take a bow.”
Five members of the Clayton Fire Department also shaved their head “to help kids with cancer,” firefighter Chris Carter said.
Other firefighting shavees were Mitch Boyette, Jonathan Braswell, Daryle Harris and Mark Norris.
The fire department had also volunteered early that morning to help set up the large tent shading the area where volunteers sold T-shirts, cupcakes, raffle tickets and oversaw a silent auction.
The silent auction included two “pit suite” tickets to the Coca-Cola 600, an autographed David Thompson poster, a Roy Williams autographed basketball, an autographed Carolina RailHawks soccer ball and four tickets to any RailHawks game.
Rob Baker said everything for the event was donated, and he called the fundraiser “very efficient” because it has almost no expenses.
“All the money we raise goes to pediatric cancer,” he said.
It is successful because people are motivated to give, Rob added. “Everyone knows somebody who’s been touched by cancer, and everyone who’s been touched wants to do something,” he said. “When Bo was diagnosed, he said, ‘What can I do?’”
As shavee Starr Marshburn said: “It all goes for a good cause. If it were your child, you would do anything you could.”
Some of the money every year comes from online donations, business donations and proceeds from the raffle and silent auction. But much of the money comes from shavees. The top fundraiser this year, Paul Uzzle, raised $3,425.
“I did a lot of begging. I did a lot through social media,” Uzzle said.
Uzzle is a good friend of the Baker family, and he said that knowing them moved him to take part.
“Seeing what they went through with their son, Bo, made a big difference, and also having a bunch of kids, you’d like to do anything you could to prevent cancer and find a cure,” he said.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a charity that raises money worldwide for research for cures and treatments for childhood cancer. Since 2000, the organization has held head-shaving events in 46 states and 18 countries and raised more than $127 million. It has given money to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University Medical Center and the Wake Forest University medical school.
To donate to the Clayton fundraiser call Rob Baker at 919-235-8474 or go to stbaldricks.org/events/clayton2014. For more information, go to stbaldricks.org.