Thursday, January 17th, 2019

S Shopper Stories


ST. BALDRICK’S FOUNDATION

Shaving for Heroes celebrates and supports kids with cancer

by Angela Slevin


A young cancer patient shaves the head of his nurse <BR>during 2017’s Shaving for Heroes  <BR>Photo courtesy of Jacob Wessler

A young cancer patient shaves the head of his nurse
during 2017’s Shaving for Heroes
Photo courtesy of Jacob Wessler

For fun to feel good about, mark April 21 on your calendars! The annual Shaving for Heroes fundraiser to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research kicks off at 9 a.m. with three separate events running through 6 p.m.

Event co-organizer Cole Bryan is a local pediatric hematologist/oncologist in the military. He did his internship and residency in Portsmouth and his fellowship in Alabama, where he met his future wife, Jessica. After a few years in San Diego, Dr. Bryan moved to Chesapeake with Jessica and his two daughters, Addy, now age six and Kate, now age eight.

Co-organizer Patty Furco and lead treasurer Todd Moore are both parents of childhood cancer survivors. In fact, many parents and families of these inspiring children are lead volunteers with Shaving for Heroes.  They really want to “pay it forward” and help other children and families in the same situation.


Every two minutes worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer,
and even in the US, one in five children will not survive.



The idea to show support for kids with cancer by shaving one’s head was born when three businessmen in New York City got together one evening. They challenged one another to give back in return for their good fortune in business. The thick head of hair sported by one of them inspired an idea: to show solidarity with children who were being treated for cancer and to raise funds for treatments, the men would shave their heads in exchange for donations. In 2000, their annual St. Patrick’s Day party at a downtown Manhattan pub became the first St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, with 19 shavees raising $104,000 to donate to the research of the Children’s Oncology Group.

While Dr. Bryan was training for his subspecialty in pediatric oncology he saw a great deal of work that St. Baldrick’s did to conquer childhood cancer. The Shaving for Heroes event to honor military families affected by childhood cancer started at about the same time. He became a shavee for the first time in 2012, and in 2014 when a new event organizer was needed, he was happy to step up.


Dr. Cole Bryan, pediatric hematologist/oncologist and Shaving for Heroes event organizer

Dr. Cole Bryan, pediatric hematologist/oncologist and Shaving for Heroes event organizer


Today, because of the research done by organizations like St. Baldrick’s, about 90 percent of kids with the most common types of cancer will live.

Dr. Bryan explains the Shaving for Heroes event used to be held at the Navy Exchange and once at a participant’s home. To involve more of the community, in 2014 the event moved downtown to Roger Brown’s restaurant in Portsmouth. This allowed for the participation of more friends and family members as well as local businesses, and the event really grew. Last year over $75,000 was raised, far exceeding the $60,000 goal. These funds support research  happening here locally and around the world.


“It has been so humbling to see the support every year.
It’s a testament to the volunteers,
families and friends who participate every single year.
It means a lot to these families,
flying in from as far away as Wisconsin and California.”

—Dr. Cole Bryan



Treatment is essential, but there are side effects. Brain tumors are common in children, and the radiation needed to treat them sometimes results in learning difficulties and growth issues. Children taking immunosuppressive medications are at an increased risk for infections and miss a lot of school. Doctors and other staff work with them extensively to make sure they can keep up in class. Thankfully, children are extremely resilient, and most side effects are outgrown.

On April 21, there will be three separate events. In the morning, a charity Workout of the Day will be held at Crossfit Krypton in Chesapeake. Then, from 10 a.m until 2 p.m. the main event, Shaving for Heroes, will be held at Roger Brown’s restaurant in Portsmouth. There will also be face painting for the kids, food and a raffle. “Many of the same people come out year after year for these events. It’s an opportunity for kids and their families to see each other outside of a hospital setting. We have a blast!” the pediatrician says.

Big Ugly Brewing will host the final Shaving for Heroes event of the day from 4 to 6 p.m. Professional hairstylists do all the shaving, but sometimes it’s fun for one of the kids living with cancer to shave an adult’s head – their doctor, a parent or even a sibling.

“It has been so humbling to see the support every year.” Dr. Bryan continues, “It’s a testament to the volunteers, families and friends who participate every single year. It means a lot to these families, flying in from as far away as Wisconsin and California.”

Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has donated $230 million to fund research grants and endowments for projects that support kids being treated for cancer.

Cancer therapy is moving away from treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, which have very high toxicity and negative side effects, and are going towards directed therapies which target a specific genetic defect that causes cancer. New treatments, like CAR-T therapy, teach one’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

Even though research has come a long way since the 1950s, there is still much work to be done. Every two minutes worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer, and even in the US, one in five children will not survive. Despite the many groups that fund general cancer research, pediatric cancer research is severely underfunded. Although this year’s goal is $60,000, Dr. Bryan would love to blow past that $75,000 actually reached last year. Men, women and children are welcome to be shavees.

To get involved or to donate, please go to www.stbaldricks.org/events/sfh18.




St. Baldrick’s Foundation


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www.stbaldricks.org