27 individuals shave their heads for 'Battle of the Bald', raising $10K for pediatric cancer research

<p>On Thursday night, “Battle of the Bald” raised $10,199 — double last year’s amount — to fund life-saving childhood cancer research at the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.&nbsp;</p>

On Thursday night, “Battle of the Bald” raised $10,199 — double last year’s amount — to fund life-saving childhood cancer research at the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. 

Twenty-seven individuals waited for their names to be called in the "Battle of the Bald" Thursday night, an annual head-shaving tournament to fund life-saving childhood cancer research at the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

This year's fundraiser collected a total of $10,199 double the amount of last year’s event due to the combined efforts of the University undergraduates, graduates, faculty and some unaffiliated with Rutgers that were willing to donate their hair to the cause.

“It’s a great example of how something meaningful can impact a community,” said Vladimir Carrasco, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and one of the event's two main organizers.

To kick-off the event, two St. Baldrick’s Honored Kids — advocates who have dealt with childhood cancer themselves — addressed the crowd of nearly 150 people at the College Avenue Student Center’s main lounge. 

“I want everyone to stay positive,” said Kaela Cruz, a 15-year-old St. Baldrick’s Honored Kid who has turned her experience with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, into a chance to raise awareness about childhood cancer and the research that is needed to find new treatments.

Cruz is one of the 300,000 children who is diagnosed with cancer each year. But despite the large pool of childhood cancer patients, research to find more cures is underfunded.

To help, "Battle of the Bald" participants get their head shaved to raise awareness but also have a chance to set up a donation page through St. Baldrick’s and use their own personal channels to raise money.

Peggy Joseph, a New Brunswick resident, raised $1,615 — the most from participants that night. She said that she is not a Scarlet Knight, but that she still wanted to help. 

“It’s something small, it’s hair, it’s not that important but the money I raised might make a difference,” Joseph said.

Another participant who raised $1,215 is Margaret Haskopoulos, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. After being inspired by a friend, Haskopoulos said she was surprised after being approached by a St. Baldrick Honored Kid who told her she was brave for what she was doing.

“They’re the brave ones, even though they think we’re brave for doing this,” Haskopoulos said.

Beatrice Trinidad, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she came out to support her friend Margaret but she connected with "Battle of the Bald" because she lost a close family member to cancer two years ago. After spectating on the sideline, she is thinking about shaving her head next year.

After each round of haircuts done by volunteers from Sparks Hair Design on Easton Avenue, participants were met by applause and friends who came out to show support.

"Battle of the Bald" was a partnership between multiple organizations at the University, and Carrasco said that he attributed this year’s growth to the increasing awareness about childhood cancer research on campus.

This was accomplished through social media, email blasts and word of mouth, and this year's participants ranged from undergraduates like Haskopoulos, to professors and faculty members.

Loren Linscott, director of the Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance office at Rutgers and Philip Chambers, assistant director of Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships, said they were excited to join in on the cause after they heard about it through email.

Geidy Mendez, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, participated in the event and said that she shaved her head to support those who fight cancer every day and “to embrace her flaws and imperfections.” 

This year represented the third time the event has come to Rutgers. It first started from one participant, Katie Miller, who graduated Rutgers last year. She shaved her head by herself two years ago, and then grew the event to 14 participants last year. Carrasco and Vanessa Reina, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, were part of that group.

Both organizers said their head-shaving experiences were incredibly powerful.

Reina said her experience taught her to increase her own self-love and to stay positive in life after seeing St. Baldrick’s Honored Kids who turned their experience into a positive opportunity to raise awareness. 

Carrasco said that after being inspired by Katie Miller to shave his head, he wants to keep "Battle of the Bald" growing after every year because, “it really hits you how prominent of an issue this is.”

After participants get their head shaved, they are given a pin that says “Ask me why I’m bald,” that looks to start a conversation about St. Baldrick’s and the work they do, he said.

“I don’t think any child should be robbed of their childhood,” Carrasco said.

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