St Baldrick’s is more than just
The 22 nine-year-olds in Laurel Burgess’ class at Saltus Grammar have some idea of how cancer can take a person’s life and leave others grieving.
Ms Burgess said she’s been clear and candid with her students about the disease and particularly so this year.
“I am quite open with them. They know my mom died of cancer and they know my dad died of cancer in October,” she said. In fact her students felt the effects of her father’s death directly as she was away from school for a few weeks at that time.
Sharing her experience of having her parents die from cancer and explaining that research can help bring about cures for the disease, was part of the motivation for many of the boys in her class to sign up to have their heads shaved as a fundraiser for cancer research for children.
“Seven of the 17 boys in my class have signed up. That’s almost a third of my class of 22,” she said.
Ms Burgess herself grew her hair back in 2010 so that she could shave it off and donate it to Locks of Love, the charity that uses human hair to make wigs for cancer patients who have lost their hair.
“I did it in support of my mother who was battling breast cancer at the time,” said Ms Burgess. “She had chemotherapy and as a result had lost all her hair,” she added.
At that time Ms Burgess had her hair cut and her head shaved clean, in front of all the Saltus Grammar students in their morning assembly.
“I did it to raise awareness and to also to raise funds for cancer research,” she said.
Her current class was in year-three then and likely remember the event, she said, because her hairdresser, Freddy King of Salon Visage, made it entertaining.
“She actually gave me a Mohawk and sprayed up my hair before shaving it completely off,” said Ms Burgess.
This year, one of the hairdresser’s children, Sam, is in Ms Burgess’ class and he plans to have his head shaved in the charity event.
Head shaving for St Bladrick’s a children’s cancer research charity, is not new to Saltus. This is the sixth year that students and faculty will have a chance to actively take part in the programme. In fact the event has become so large that a teacher has been assigned as co-ordinator.
“For the past five years it was run by Eric Totten, who has since changed schools, “ said teacher Stefanie Pedro. “Mr Totten asked me to take over organising the event when he left.”
Ms Pedro was one of the teachers who had her head shaved in the event last year. She said she believes it’s been a great device for showing students that they can make a difference, and showing them exactly how to do it.
“We’re building a sense of community and caring,” she said. “This event gives the students a sense of being a part of something outside themselves a worthwhile cause it fosters philanthropy and sets them on a path of being caring, generous adults,” she added.
Not surprisingly, nine-year-old Nicholas Narraway isn’t looking that far into the future. He loves long hair and dreads getting his cut, so his mother was quite shocked when he announced his plans to do so.
“I was actually nervous about him getting donations outside the immediate family because I was concerned he’d back down, and decide not to have his head shaved,” said his mother Deborah Titterton Narraway. “But he’s committed. I waited three weeks before we went outside the family, and he’s not wavered on his decision,” she said.
“It’s not a big deal,” Nicholas said about getting his head shaved. “I don’t expect people will look at me very differently, or treat me differently. I’ll wear a hat most of the time, so they may not even know,” he added.
One of the seven boys in Ms Burgess’ class getting their heads shaved, it also helps that Nicholas will have some his friends in the bald boat with him.
As fundraiser for the Bermuda Cancer Center, his mother is delighted especially with his decision and is coaching him in his fundraising efforts. At the time of this interview, he had already raised $880 toward his goal of $1,000.
“Twenty-five people have donated so far,” said his mother.” We’ve been surprised at the generosity of some and also in the numbers of people who have donated.”