In an effort to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, members of the Austin community gathered on the steps of the Main Building on Saturday to shave their heads.
With the slogan “Go bald for a bold cause,” roughly 150 people registered to shave their heads for the Brave the Shave event. This year, Brave the Shave raised more than $50,000.
All of the proceeds of the event go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that promotes fundraising events such as shaving heads to fund cancer and supportive care research for children and upgrading equipment for hospitals.
The organization Students Making Impacts Through Love and Empathy, S.M.I.L.E., hosts the annual event. Sabrina Khwaja, S.M.I.L.E. fundraising chair and sociology senior, said it is inspiring to see individuals be selfless and shave off all of their hair.
“In essence, they’re kind of going through the process with these children that are affected with cancer,” Khwaja said. “Through chemotherapy your hair tends to fall out, so by volunteering to shave off your hair and show those children that ‘I am going through it with you’ ... it is overwhelming and wonderful to see this.”
Kalie Kubes, applied learning and development sophomore is a three-time cancer survivor. She said she had neuroblastoma at the age of 15 months and again at 2, and thyroid cancer at 18 and is at high risk for relapse. Although she is currently cancer-free, she said she believes everyone should shave their head to support someone enduring cancer at some point in their life.
“It definitely brings up some feelings that are really emotional sometimes,” Hughes said in a speech she gave during Brave the Shave. “You look at yourself in the mirror and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just don’t have any hair.’ I never thought of myself as being bald, but it’s the best thing you could ever do.”
Sheldon Ekland-Olson, professor and school of human ecology director, said he promised his life and death decisions class — a class Khwaja is enrolled in — he would have his head shaved if it raised money for the cause. The class raised $1,842 and he shaved his head.
“It’s important for me to see all of us do things for other people, and this is one of those events that does that,” Ekland-Olson said. “What I admire are the women who do this. It’s way harder for the women to get their heads shaved than it is for a man. It is definitely inspiring.”
Pre-nursing student Devon Strickland said she volunteered she decided to participate in Brave the Shave after hearing an American studies lecture on women’s suffrage.
“All at once I realized that throughout history many people have sacrificed themselves mentally and physically to fight battles and win wars they greatly supported.” Strickland said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Who am I?’ and, ‘What do I stand for if I can’t sacrifice beyond my limitations for something I so strongly believe in as finding a cure to cancer, especially childhood cancer?’ I did it because sometimes it may seem that cancer wins the battle but we will win the war.”
Khwaja said many people participated because they have been affected by cancer in one way or another.
“This form of empathy allows awareness to spread, and most importantly, show those currently suffering from cancer are not alone,” Khwaja said. “By having our speakers share their personal stories battling cancer, and currently suffering from cancer, it gives our attendees a personal story to connect with. It makes cancer that more real, and calls for action to be taken. Those that contributed are making a real difference.”