Jenna Watkins doesn’t like talking about the cancer doctors diagnosed in her when she was just 13 months old.
But the Rand Road Elementary School first-grader had no trouble performing her official duties at Friday night’s St. Baldrick’s event at Garner High School. Now cancer-free for five years, Watkins used a giant plastic sword to “knight” about eight people who have been stalwart supporters of the St. Baldrick’s program.
Then the real fun began. Adults and kids alike took turns sitting in the barber’s chair as volunteer hair cutters, Patricia Wilson Reynolds and Daryl Stuart fired up their clippers and shave the heads of fundraisers who were working to raise just over $10,300 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for children’s cancer research.
Known at the Brandon Lowery team in honor of the Garner teenager who lost his battle with cancer in 2014, 31 people signed up to have their heads shaved. Each of those who registered in advance had already raised money. More than $8,500 was already in the bank when the event started.
Emcee Randy Strum kept the money rolling in, taking additional donations to keep Stuart and Reynolds from stopping in the middle of a haircut, or to follow through on Declan Newkirk’s wish for a rooster cut. Strum squeezed more money out of the crowd when he asked if the spectators were willing to pay to have Newkirk’s rooster cut trimmed off.
They responded, throwing money on the floor in front of Newkirk’s chair.
When Garner High science teacher Bill Himes sat down, organizers recognised him as the volunteer who had raised the most money. Then Reynolds started trimming away at Himes’ flowing hair. Soon, his head was nearly bald and Strum asked the crowd if Reynolds should take Himes’ beard and mustache.
More money made its way to the floor in front of Himes and the beard and mustache came off.
Himes, who organizes the event with his wife Lisa, said the volunteers deserved a lot of credit for raising money and sticking with the project even though it was delayed five times by weather and other factors.
“We finally get to have our event if it doesn’t snow in the next two or three hours,” Himes said.
Susan Lowery, Brandon Lowery’s mother, said the event is special not only because it keeps her son’s memory alive, but it helps others too.
“Anyone who participates in something like this could be saving a life. That’s a really big contribution, just saving one life,” Lowery said. She added that she was pleased the group, which has been active for seven years, decided to honor her son after his death.
“Brandon loved Garner High School and it’s just really gratifying to see people cared about him and that they still care enough about him to include him in this,” Lowery said.