March 27, 2007 -- St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally observed by the wearing of the green. Hardcore fans of the Irish saint may even opt for shamrock-patterned socks or a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt. But St. Baldrick’s Day, celebrated at the University of Virginia on March 23, requires a much bigger commitment: revelers go bald for a good cause.
The premise behind St. Baldrick’s Day is simple: volunteers solicit donations to support cancer research, and in exchange for the funds they agree to have their heads shaved to show solidarity with children who lose their hair during cancer treatment. Many participants do so in honor of a family member or friend who is fighting cancer, or who died young because of the disease.
Organized by fourth-year Erin Henshaw, this year’s St. Baldrick’s Day event raised more than $52,000 for children’s cancer research — more than triple the amount raised during last year’s inaugural celebration in Charlottesville. Participation was also way up: from 16 “shavees” in 2006 to more than 60 this year, the vast majority of whom were U.Va. students.
“My family has been involved in shaving their heads for six years,” said Henshaw, whose family’s start with St. Baldrick’s came after her father’s business partner lost his 9-year-old daughter to cancer. This year, Henshaw, her sister, mother and stepmother all had their heads shaved at O’Neill’s, a bar on the Corner and the site of the festivities for the past two years.
The first St. Baldrick’s Day was organized in New York City in 2000 by three coworkers who hoped to raise $17,000; they ended up making more than $104,000. Last year, St. Baldricks Day events — always celebrated in March, and often observed in Irish pubs — were held in 42 states and in Bermuda, Hong Kong and Argentina. Worldwide, the events raised more than $8 million, primarily for the Children’s Oncology Group, a network of 230 institutions collaborating on the search for cures to childhood cancer. More information about St. Baldrick’s Day is available at: www.stbaldricks.org/index.html