Going Bald for St. Baldrick's

By Meghan Byrnes and Morgan Brang



Out of the more than 490,000 U.S. shavees who shaved their heads in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation on March 1, four came from the Jamesville-DeWitt High School community. Spanish teacher Michael O’Brien, freshman Hadar Pepperstone, junior Sarah Young, and senior Sarah Nevin participated in this event at Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Pub in downtown Syracuse. For Mr. O’Brien, Pepperstone, and Nevin, it was their first year shaving their heads. Young, however, shaved her head for the fourth time.

“When you have a shaved head, people are going to ask you what’s going on and you can use that as a platform to tell them why pediatric cancer is such a problem and why you’ve done St. Baldrick’s,” said Young. Veteran of St. Baldrick’s Day, Young first shaved her head for the event four years ago when she heard about it through a man at her synagogue. Through her experience, Young learned much more about pediatric cancers and the lack of funding for researching these diseases. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation quickly became one of Young’s favorite organizations because of its dedication to research. “They donate 80 percent of their money to actual research, 17.5 percent goes to fundraising, and 2.5 percent goes to employees and things like that,” said Young. This makes St. Baldrick’s the second leading provider for money for pediatric cancer research.

According to The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, more children die of childhood cancer than any other disease in the U.S. Year after year, more than 175,000 kids are diagnosed with some form of pediatric cancer, according to the foundation. Despite the creation of many organizations dedicated to help lower these statistics, much of the money raised goes to things like treatment and care for patients. Because of this, pediatric cancer is extremely underfunded in the research department, making it hard to cure these terrible diseases. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation was started with a mission to raise money for childhood cancer research. The organization has gained popularity over the years through their head-shaving events, where people raise money through pledges to donate to St. Baldrick’s and then shave their head to raise awareness about pediatric cancer’s lack of funding for research.

Young’s experience with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation led her to persuade Nevin to shave her head as well. “Young told me about the issues that children with cancer face and I wanted to do something to change that,” said Nevin. Nevin raised over $800 in pledges for St. Baldrick’s before the time came to shave her head.

“My mom, my dad, and my brother were doing it and I thought about it and I was like why not?” said Pepperstone about her decision to shave her head for St. Baldrick’s day. Pepperstone also knew that the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a reliable organization that donates the majority of their money to pediatric cancer research, unlike some other organizations of its kind. “It was a really fun thing to do with family and friends,” said Pepperstone.

A phone call from a long time friend prompted Mr. O’Brien to take part in St. Baldrick’s day. His friend had just been diagnosed with cancer, and Mr. O’Brien was shocked. Luckily, his friend is doing well, but his story stuck with Mr. O’Brien and he wanted to help. After hearing about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and the work that they do, he decided that this would be the way in which he would honor his friend. “For kids who are going through it, I think it’s a double shock so I thought that was a more appropriate way to go,” said Mr. O’Brien. Being a teacher and being surrounded by kids everyday was one more factor that led to Mr. O’Brien choosing pediactric cancer as his cause. By the time he shaved his head, Mr. O’Brien raised more than $1700 for St. Baldrick’s.

All four J-DHS participants said they would absolutely shave their heads again for this cause. “Even if you are a little weird looking for awhile, it does a lot to help kids and I think that that is more important,” said Nevin.