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Bald for a cause

Sarah Mervosh | Monday, March 23, 2009

Wearing a pink bandana that said “Cancer fears me,” 6-year-old Lauren Pollock, who lost her hair to chemotherapy, peered around her mother’s shoulder to watch as Notre Dame students shaved their heads to show support for childhood cancer.

Over 100 people shaved their heads and raised an estimated $24,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation at the Freshman Class Council’s St. Baldrick’s Day event, which took place on Thursday and Friday, said freshman Catherine Soler.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an organization that raises money to cure childhood cancer by supporting cancer research and fellowships, according to its Web site.

Of the 126 people who shaved their heads, four were women. Together, these four women raised about $10,000, which is nearly half of the total amount of money that was raised at the event.

Junior Tiffany Robak said that she was “freaking out” right before she shaved her head, but a little girl that was battling cancer came to watch, and that reminded her why she was doing it.

“At one second I thought I was going to pee my pants, but I didn’t,” she said. “She was so excited that I was doing it. And I was like, ‘This is why I’m doing it. This little girl is so nice and she just loved life and she was so grateful.'”

After Robak shaved her head, she said she initially thought, “People are going to think I’m crazy, like Britney Spears or something.”

But she said reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, and she does not regret her decision.

“The other day I said to someone, ‘I kind of want my hair back.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, but so does that little girl,'” Robak said.

She said his comment really made an impact on her, and now she is even taking advantage of her new hairstyle to emphasize her femininity.

“It kind of makes me feel more girly. I wear all my earrings now or I make sure I have my rings on,” she said. “It’s just kind of fun dressing up or wearing my cute clothes. Just to make sure I feel like a girl.”

Dr. Tim Griffin, a pediatric oncologist at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, gave a speech Thursday night to kick off the event, and introduced a few children who were battling, or had beaten, cancer.

“It’s wonderful to see them in this environment. You look at their faces and for one of the first times they see that there are people out there who care,” Griffin said.

“They still want to act like a kid,” he said. “When they see fun, when they see excitement, when they see people having a good time, it really has an impact on them.”

And the atmosphere at St. Baldrick’s Day was definitely full of fun, with plenty of balloons, streamers, upbeat music and smiling faces.

When Griffin introduced Lauren Pollock, she said that her favorite band was the Jonas Brothers, so later that night, Freshman Class Council made sure to put on some of their music for her enjoyment.

Pollock said that her favorite color was pink, like her bandana and the shirt she was wearing. She also said she likes to ride her bike and play with her Goldendoodle Brady, named after Brady Quinn.

Pollock said she was having “fun” at St. Baldrick’s Day.

Her mother, Judy, said that when her daughter found out that she was going to lose her hair, “That was the saddest thing.”

“It’s pretty cool that everybody would come out and support [children with cancer] in this way,” Judy Pollock said.

Students who came to have their heads shaved ranged from a male student with dreadlocks to various members of the football team.

Freshman Mike Golic said he decided to shave his head for the event because he has had a few uncles who have been affected by cancer and wanted to help out the cause.

“What they’re going through is far worse than a hair cut,” Golic said. “If these kids can deal with what they have to deal with on a daily basis, I can suck it up for a haircut.”

Freshamn Dayne Crist, who came with Golic to get his head shaved, echoed Golic’s sentiments and added, “I’m just happy to be here helping out.”

Soler said she is extremely pleased with how the event turned out, and said it showed the “true spirit of Notre Dame.”

“I think it couldn’t have gone any better,” Soler said. “Just to see everyone’s reaction, how touched they are and how much they wanted to give to the cause.”

“These kids will be talking about this for months,” Griffin said.