In Sistersville, bald truly is beautiful
“Hey, it’s just hair, it’ll grow back . . . and if it doesn’t, so be it.”
That was the sentiment of just about everyone gathered at the First United Baptist Church in Sistersville on Sunday afternoon as the majority of the congregation gathered for a special activity held in the basement.
As people stood in line to fill their plates for their usual once a month Sunday dinner, a feeling of electric anticipation was in the air as they watched others in the back corner, setting the scene for what was to come. There was a chair, a stool, an electric razor or two, an apron, barber equipment, and a professional barber. Within minutes, a decorated donation box was set on the end of a nearby table and the announcement was finally made that the festivities were about to begin.
The sound of metal chairs being scooted and moved across the tiled floor echoed in the room for a few seconds. Everyone wanted a front row seat, everyone wanted to be in the perfect place to take a picture or video and everyone wanted to be part of this important, exciting, event.
Heads were about to be shaved and nobody wanted to miss a second of it.
What? All this for a haircut?
No. Not just for a haircut . . . for a cause.
Church member Art Mason explained. “A member of our church family was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and chemotherapy treatments caused her hair to come out. She eventually had to shave her head. Wanting to show our support for her and her battle, several of us decided we should shave our heads to let her know that we cared for her and were with her all the way, hair or no hair.”
“We put the idea out there, and the next thing you know, everybody was on board. Some jumped at the chance of shaving their heads in support of her and others wanted to offer their support and donate, but not with hair.”
“We decided to forward all funds donated from our event to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation,” Pastor Darrell Mayfield said. “They originally started the head shaving fundraiser to support childhood cancer research and that’s certainly a cause we can get behind.”
These “head shaving fundraisers” and the St. Baldrick’s foundation itself began in 2000 and since that time, more than 230,000 “shavees”, including more than 22,700 women, have had their heads shaved in order to raise funds for childhood cancer research.
While “St. Baldrick’s” is not a foundation started in the name of an actual Saint, the name fits the main fundraiser for the group perfectly. A mix of St. Patrick’s Day and the word “bald” actually sum up the beginnings of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“St. Baldrick’s head-shaving events began as a challenge between businessmen and have grown from one event in 2000 to over 1,300 events in 2013, raising critical funds for childhood cancer research,” the website says.
“We don’t make wigs, collect hair to soak up oil spills, or long to be just like Britney Spears-in fact, the shaving itself is just a means to an end. On the surface, we shave because kids with cancer often lose their hair during treatment, and we stand proudly bald beside them. But the true goal-to cure childhood cancer-will be accomplished because, while shaving, we raise funds for lifesaving childhood cancer research.”
Being bald also brings public awareness to the cause.
One bald guy may not draw a lot of attention in a small town, but seven, or 10, or 15? “Questions will eventually be asked by people wherever we are at, and what better conversation starter about this cause can there be other than a shiny head?” said one shavee at the church.
“I’m very proud to be part of it. Shaving our heads lets our church member know that we stand with her and it gets other people interested in maybe holding their own fundraisers for a cause like this.”
The volunteer barber of the day in Sistersville was Parson Mayfield’s cousin, Jim Goontz, who is the owner and operator of “Bush Wacker’s Hair Company” in Parkersburg, W.Va.
“I’m quite honored to be here,” said Goontz. “My 32-year-old step-son is a 16-year survivor of Hodgins Lymphoma. Cancer has touched all of our lives, sometimes it just hits to close to home. I’m very honored to be a part of a fundraiser like this. It’s different.”
And the difference was the obvious enjoyment both the participants and the audience in attendance got from the entire experience while raising needed funds for cancer research.
“It’s a little bit scary, he’s never had his head shaved before, but I’m so proud of him at the same time,” said the wife of one soon to be shavee who both cringed and cheered as hair fell to the floor time and time again.
It was a fundraiser that became very emotional now and then, but still managed to remain upbeat and fun.
Jim Shreves was the first volunteer of the day to take a seat at Jim Goontz’s makeshift barber chair. While he was eager to get shorn of his hair, tears glistened his eyes more than once throughout the process, especially when his daughter manned the razor. The room grew quiet and more than one person wiped away a tear while watching.
Once the razor was back in the hands of the professional, the mood lightened in the room immediately.
“You won’t need another haircut until Spring,” Goontz said to the shavee as he moved the electric razor skillfully along his hairline.
“It’ll probably be longer than that,” laughed Shreves.
The entire event ran like a well-oiled machine. As one shavee left the barber chair, another immediately took his place, and took the good humored ribbing from the audience in stride.
“You look younger without your hair than you did with your hair!” came a shout from the audience.
“He looks like one of our founding fathers!” said another.
“Now we know what he’s going to look like when he’s 100!”
“Oh my gosh, you look exactly like your dad!”
The silly taunts and laughter went on throughout the afternoon. Once the last shavee left the chair, 12 heads in all had been shaved and more than $400 raised for St. Baldrick’s.
“I’m very proud of our church family,” said Pastor Mayfield.
“I was so pleased with the turnout and support (for our church member) and the money that was collected for St. Baldricks.”
The St. Baldrick’s priorities are spending as little as possible to raise each dollar, and making sure every donation goes to the best research to find cures for kids fighting cancer . . . heads are shaved, awareness and funds are raised, and research continues for the causes and cures for childhood and other cancers.
For more information about the St. Baldrick Foundation, visit their website at www.stbaldricks.org.