Bald became more than just a fashion statement at Rowan’s annual St. Baldrick’s Day event in the Student Center Pit on Saturday.
More than 40 people shaved their heads to raise money for pediatric cancer research and show their support for anyone currently battling the disease, in remission or deemed cancer-free.
Organized by junior psychology major Kayla Raparelli, the director of charitable events for Student University Programmers (SUP), the event began with a talk by Dr. David Barrett, a doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Barrett explained his research, which, according to the St. Baldrick’s website, involves taking T cells from a patient and redirecting “them towards the leukemia with an artificial construct called a chimeric antigen receptor.” His research, funded by St. Baldrick’s, looks promising but still requires more information about T cells.
Barrett served as an example of where the money donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation goes. St. Baldrick’s solely funds pediatric cancer research, as it receives less than 4 percent of federal funding and very little money from pharmaceutical companies because drugs for childhood cancer are not profitable, according to the St. Baldrick’s website.
After Barrett finished speaking, the first round of shavees entered the stage and the volunteer barbers and hairdressers readied their clippers.
As hair fell to the ground, each of the shavees shared why they participated in St. Baldrick’s. Reasons varied, and included personal connections to cancer as well as general desire to help those who have been affected by it.
“We are participating to raise money to fill that gap so that doctors like Dr. Barrett today can continue to do their work and from there, in the future, we won’t have to worry about cancer at all.” – jeff pierantozzi
Steven Magown, a junior mechanical engineering major, shaved his head in honor of his relatives.
“I’ve had some family members who have passed away due to cancer in the past. Last year I decided to just go ahead and do it [St. Baldrick’s],” Magown said. “It was such a rewarding experience last year that I decided to do it again this year.
“Cancer affects everyone. If I can help in any kind of small way, that’s what I’d like to do.”
Participants included students as well as Rowan alumni and Glassboro community members. Ahna Donahue, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s in English, decided to participate after talking to parents of children with cancer.
“I volunteer at CHOP and I’ve heard some parents talk about honoring their kids through the foundation,” Donahue said. “When I heard about that, I immediately decided to sign up and pledge my hair in exchange for what has reached over $2,000. I intend on continuing to fundraise after the event as well.”
To remind participants and audience members why it is important to donate to St. Baldrick’s, Glassboro resident Jeff Pierantozzi talked about his experience with pediatric cancer with his son, Justin, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“We came face to face with the lack of funding for childhood cancer. [Justin’s] prognosis is good, but we met a lot of parents of kids whose prognosis is not as good as his,” Pierantozzi said. “We also now understand that funding from the government doesn’t do enough in terms of finding those treatments for especially rare types of cancer.
“We are participating to raise money to fill that gap so that doctors like Dr. Barrett today can continue to do their work and from there, in the future, we won’t have to worry about cancer at all,” Pierantozzi continued.
The event raised more than $19,600, which will all be given to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Senior liberal studies major Elizabeth Hunt, who raised $565, was happy with the success of the event and the contribution she was able to make.
“I feel proud. I was nervous about shaving, but now it’s not that bad. It’s in support of the kids and I’m proud I was able to do something about this,” Hunt said. “It’s important we support this cause because no child deserves a life of cancer. They should be focusing on playing or going to school and just leading a normal life.”
For more information about St. Baldrick’s or to donate, visit their website.
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