As stated in a recent Public Affairs (SDPBC) press release, Olympic Heights Community High School students are supporting childhood cancer research in a much more unique way than donating money – they are shaving their heads. On Thursday, March 13, Olympic Heights hosted their tenth annual St Baldrick’s shave-a-thon event in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation which is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives. To participate in the head-shaving extravaganza, students were asked to raise a minimum of 100 dollars; the total raised by Olympic Heights this year exceeded $33,000 by over 200 volunteers.
Comments by students and other participants of this shave-a-thon event success story are as follows:
“This is an overall great thing,” said senior Ian Wagner. “Raising money to cure childhood cancer is an extremely important cause and seeing high school students raise this much money is an outstanding thing.” In the past ten years, Olympic Heights have raised over $500,000 in total. What’s truly remarkable about that number is the fact that each event has been entirely student run under the guidance of few faculty members.
“As a high school student, it’s such a great feeling to be able to make a difference like this. When you walk into the gymnasium and see a sea of green shirts, wigs, headbands and shoes, you get really excited for what was accomplished,” said junior Gianna Damian. “It’s important to spread the word.” At the event, 60 students shaved their heads, including 12 female students.
Senior Elizabeth Siegel is a four year veteran of the head-shaving process. When asked why she shaves her head, Siegel responded, “It’s really important for girls to shave their hair. It makes such an impact in these kids’ lives, and it makes them feel like they don’t have to go through it alone. They have someone who knows what it feels like to not have any hair on their heads.”
Lauren Benedeky, a stage IV neuroblastoma survivor and St. Baldrick’s national ambassador speaking at the assembly, told the crowd, “36 children are diagnosed with cancer every day. That is 36 families every day in turmoil and grief,”
It is truly spectacular the amount of money that has been raised for this fantastic cause. This proves that at no matter what age, people can make a difference. As Elizabeth Siegel acutely expressed, “It’s only hair. It will grow back.”
The realities of childhood cancer:
Worldwide, 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. And in the U.S., more children die of childhood cancer than any other disease—more than AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital anomalies and diabetes combined. Two-thirds of children treated for childhood cancer will suffer long-term effects from treatment including loss of hearing and sight, heart disease, secondary cancers, learning disabilities, infertility and more.
Childhood cancer isn't just one disease—there are over a dozen types of childhood cancer and countless subtypes, each requiring specific research to develop the best treatment for every child. But in the last 20 years, only two new drugs have been specifically developed to treat children with cancer. Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute's budget is directed to childhood cancer research.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation exists to change these realities. By working closely with leading pediatric oncologists, we determine the most promising research to fund and create funding priorities to make the greatest impact for children with cancer. Here are some creative ways we're doing just that:
- Providing hospitals the funds to open high-impact clinical trials for rare disease types, placing more children on studies to increase the rate of progress, while also increasing the likelihood for a child to receive the best treatment plan in a hospital near home.
- Funding researchers to work together, so that research currently underway by the best and brightest investigators is shared between institutions, and even across continents, giving all children with cancer the best chance for a cure.
- Training the next generation of researchers—in 2005, a shortage of pediatric oncologists was predicted, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation stepped in to ensure that every child with cancer will have a doctor and tomorrow's research will not be interrupted.
- Funding supportive care research to improve the quality of life for patients and survivors. Supportive care research addresses the side effects of treatment, long-term effects faced by survivors, psychosocial aspects of childhood cancer and more.
While some organizations spread their research dollar between adult and children's cancers, every grant funded by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is for childhood cancer research. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation takes great care with every donor dollar, keeping the staff small, the expenses low and directing every possible dollar to childhood cancer research.
REF: SDPBC (Press Release) Public Affairs Office, Mar. 2014