More and more people today are deliberately going bald because the growth in cancer patients is increasing the use of head shaving campaigns for fundraising. The premise is simple: a person pledges to raise a specified amount of money and agrees to shave their head if friends, family and others donate to their cause. The reward, many say, is supporting friends and family members losing hair due to cancer treatment in a tangible way.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in the US and Canada just announced the “Totally Baldacious!” campaign which encourages people to shave their heads or change their hair color. Other options include a temporary tattoo on bald heads or, for men, shaving or coloring beards or mustaches. President and CEO John Walter has joined in, saying he hopes to raise at least $50,000. "I believe in (our) mission with every bone in my body and every hair on my head," Walter said. "And I'm prepared to sacrifice those hairs to show in no uncertain terms just how much I care about helping people with cancer live longer, healthier lives."
Like many campaigns today, this one incorporates social media. LLS developed an application which participants can use to "virtually" bald their social networking profile and dare others to shave one for the team, or to support their fundraising efforts. You can find the app in the resources list below and use it to see what you would look like bald.
World’s Greatest Shave Draws More Than 100,000:
An even larger undertaking is the “World’s Greatest Shave” in Australia which takes place March 11-13. Started in 1998, World's Greatest Shave raised more than $92 million for the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia. More than 125,000 people from all walks of life shave or color their hair each year to raise funds. Where does the name come from? The Foundation holds the Guinness World Record for most heads shaved over a 24 hour period, set in 1999.
This isn’t the only large head shaving event down under. Bluey Day or Crop a Cop is an initiative of police officers and other emergency services across Australia who shave their heads in support of children living with cancer and other serious illnesses.
Adults Shave Heads and Become Heroes for Kids:
Since their first head-shaving event on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000, California-based St. Baldrick’s Foundation has contributed more than $50.5 million dollars to pediatric cancer research through events around the globe. The nonprofit has a major push underway this year since 2010 marks their ten year anniversary and hopes to enlist more than 40,000 shavees this year. “It’s hard to believe that St. Baldrick’s, which started out as a small fundraiser among friends, has grown into the world’s largest volunteer driven fundraising event for childhood cancer,” says Kathleen Ruddy, executive director.
St. Baldrick’s has proudly shaved more than 108,000 heads at more than 2,500 events around the world. The foundation supports programs related to childhood cancer, including research grants, improved patient treatments, research projects and pediatric cancer trials.
Head Shaving Comes In Many Forms:
According to Fundraiser Insight, a publication for professional fundraisers, head shaving fundraisers have many incarnations, and are only limited by one’s imagination.
One of the most inspirational examples of head shaving is Anne Lisa Lynch of
The United Kingdom who raised funds for cancer research in the UK by shaving her head publicly and vibrantly. She continues to raise money online through her blog, which includes the video showing the grand head shaving event when her waist-length locks were chopped off.
Here are some of the reasons she gave for shaving her head:
• Because so many people I've known in my life have been touched by cancer, and it doesn't appear to be less prevalent (though treatments have improved)
• Because there's still a way to go for treatments to be 100 percent effective (and it's people who have put so much effort into fundraising and research that have got it as far as it is today!)
• Because when it does touch peoples lives, there is still a feeling of despair when first diagnosed. It would be wonderful if, when people first hear the words, "you have cancer" that the immediate reaction is annoyance that it is going to inconvenience them for a while. (Even better would be that no consultant or doctor would ever have to say those words!)
• Because my childhood friend now has it, and though I'm there for her as much as I can be, I still feel so helpless as she struggles through the harsh treatments, trying to decide whether it's worth continuing when it makes her feel so bad.
• While I can't physically do something for my friend (I can't make her better, nor take her pain away), I can at least try to do something towards the ongoing quest for improvement in treatment for ourselves and for our children.
• Shaving my head to raise funds, whilst not original, is something in my power to do... and it means something to me (both in the physical hair loss, and the idea why the loss of hair is significant -see). If I didn't care about it, then it would be no big deal.
• It was because cancer touches on so many peoples' lives, that so many people encouraged me to go for it!
What do you think? Would you be willing to shave your head to raise funds for cancer? Have you ever done this? If so, what was the experience like? If you have cancer, would you like others to shave their heads on your behalf? Do you think it’s appropriate to encourage people to do this when hair loss can be devastating for cancer patients, especially women?
Totally Baldacious info: www.totallybaldacious.org
Make Yourself Baldacious App:
World’s Greatest Shave Info: http://www.worldsgreatestshave.com/
World's Great Shave TV ads: http://www.worldsgreatestshave.com/news/video.php
St. Baldrick’s Info: www.StBaldricks.org.
St. Baldrick’s Events : http://blog.nola.com/highlights-with-derick-hingle/2009/03/stbaldricks_one_hairraising_ex.html
Anne Lisa Lynch on shaving her head: http://baringitall.blogspot.com/
About the author: Pat Elliott is a journalist and blogger who has written about health issues for more than 20 years. She is also a cancer survivor who coaches people on how to manage their transition and take control of their new future.