WINCHESTER, Va. – Strength, character, and courage.
"Living these values has always been the message to the Corps family," said the Middle East District's Erick Stillman. "I want to be able to proudly say to children living with cancer and to their parents watching them endure: 'I am here to help and lighten the load.'"
This conviction is what inspired engineering technicians Stillman and Scott Doeden to shave their heads to raise both awareness and money for children with cancer. On Sept. 28 - a day that Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor named St. Baldrick's Day this year in honor of this event - the two district members joined their team "The Hair Hackers" to celebrate by shaving their heads to raise money.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation, according to its website, is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and helping survivors enjoy long, healthy lives.
The foundation was established March 17, 2000, when a group of reinsurance executives turned their company's St. Patrick's Day party into a head-shaving event to benefit children with cancer. The foundation now claims to be the world's largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research. Charitable events are held year-round to benefit St. Baldrick's Foundation.
More than 160,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with cancer each year, and one in five will not survive. St. Baldrick's Foundation funds more childhood cancer research grants than any other organization except the U.S. government, according to its website.
Locally, Doeden's wife Ammy became interested in the program and chose to spearhead a movement within her community. Doeden said they realize they are lucky to have healthy children but know that others are less fortunate. Acknowledging this, they wanted to get involved in some fashion. Subsequently, they became personally connected when friends of a family member lost their 14-month-old daughter to cancer.
This is the third year she has participated in a St. Baldrick's event, shaving her head each time. Last year, she also held a bake sale at their church. "This year, she decided to 'go big or go home,'" said Doeden, "and organized a golf tournament and silent auction to accompany the head-shaving event."
Doeden said "The Hair Hackers," with the motto "Get Your Shave On," had 22 members – eight women and 14 men – participate in the follicle-freeing occasion. Stillman's wife Amy also joined the team, along with two of the Doedens' four children, to have their heads shaved.
The hair that is shaved during St. Baldrick's events is not donated. Instead, volunteers raise sponsorship money for having their heads shaved. Of the money raised, 82 percent goes directly to childhood cancer research.
Stillman said that shaving hair is an act to show kids there is nothing wrong with being bald. "They are kids! It is OK to be aerodynamic."
"I am going to keep my hair this short as long as St. Baldrick's donations are still being accepted through the end of the year," said Doeden.
"When it comes to children, I will do whatever it takes," said Stillman, who sponsored five children during his campaign for the event. He used as many means possible to advertise his efforts, including posters, phone calls, blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, and emailing. He stayed in close contact with the children and families he was sponsoring and connected with them. "I want to be able to say to the kids that I did everything I could."
The "Hackers" had set a goal of $5,000 for their donations. So far, they have raised $8,885.