VILLAS - "Putting charity over vanity" might sound like a thoughtful Hallmark slogan, but it's actually been used to promote support of a childhood cancer research event that's raised over $230,000 at Lower Cape May Regional (LCMR) schools over the past 10 years.
On April 18, students like Delaney Smith and Riley Dougherty, both of Villas, will shave their heads to support the St. Baldrick's Foundation, the top private funder of childhood cancer research grants in the U.S. and around the world. Each year, thousands of volunteers worldwide organize fundraisers, such as its signature head-shaving events, to raise money to support life-saving childhood cancer research.
"For guys, shaving our heads is easy," said Thomas Belasco, a high school English teacher who started the LCMR event. He expects about 15 teachers and students to shave their hair this year, including at least three girls.
"For these young ladies to shave their heads, they are heroes," he added. "For many teenage girls, their hair defines them. It's nice for the teens to learn to do for others."
For Dougherty and Smith, it's not the act of shaving their hair that's worrisome, but what happens next.
"I'm not nervous about having my hair shaved off, but I'm nervous about what people might think afterward," admitted 13-year-old Dougherty, an eighth grader at R.M. Teitelman Middle School. She received permission from the school to attend the event, which will take place at the high school.
"Four years ago, my sister Kaitlyn (who shaved her head for St. Baldrick's) said something that has stuck with me," Dougherty said. "She said, 'Your hair doesn’t define you, your actions do' and at 9-years-old, I truly didn't understand what she meant, but now I get it.
"We live in a world where young girls think that their looks define who they are, but we should live in a world where our actions define us," she said. "My mom always says, 'Be the change you want to see in the world' and I want to see a world where kids don’t suffer from cancer. I want to live in a world where families don’t have to watch loved ones suffer in pain from cancer and I want to live in a world where my actions count more than my looks."
According to the St. Baldrick's Foundation, every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer – about the time needed to log onto your laptop, order a coffee, or get through a TV commercial break.
It’s also about the same amount of time it takes to have a head shaved to support childhood cancer research. Belasco said each shave is required to raise a minimum of $50; he sets a minimum of $75 for the local students and teachers who participate.
Dougherty's goal is to raise $3,500 and anyone can donate to support her at https://bit.ly/2FBxy2d.
Smith, a sophomore at LCMR High School, rose over $200, surpassing her goal of $100. But she's not stopping yet.
She's not worried about shaving her locks, although she expects her head to "be cold for a while" afterward. She is worried about after the event, however, and that people will forget the cause.
"The event is great for raising awareness of childhood cancer," she said, "but I don't want it to be for nothing. I wish more kids would participate in the event, but even more, I hope we can keep up awareness of the disease. I've had a few members of my family have cancer, and it's heartbreaking for adults. I can't even imagine how it must be for families when their child is diagnosed with cancer."
Anyone wishing to support Smith may donate at https://bit.ly/2JPYaC8.
To contact Karen Knight, email firstname.lastname@example.org.