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The Bald and The Beautiful raises money and awareness for cancer research

| Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Hair can often be a means of self-expression. However, sometimes no hairstyle at all can say more than even the most elaborate updo. The Bald and The Beautiful, one of the largest student-run philanthropy events on campus, gives students the opportunity to either shave their heads, donate eight inches of hair or buy hair extensions to raise funds and awareness for cancer research.

“It’s cool when you shave your head and you’re walking around campus and you see somebody else that you didn’t know was shaving their head or a girl who got her hair cut super short, it’s just like a cool little bond you share,” Bart Bramanti, a junior and co-chair for the event, said.

This year, The Bald and the Beautiful will be held on April 3 and 4 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and April 5 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Duncan Student Center on the Hagerty Family Cafe Stage. Participants can either donate eight inches of their hair for free, shave their head for $15 or purchase colored hair extensions, each color representing a different type of cancer, for $10.

Organizer and senior Rachel Belans said she hopes the central location will help make the fundraiser more successful this year.

“We switched the location this year, Belans said. “It used to be in [LaFortune Student Center] so we’re hoping that the new location will be really exciting and maybe help us get more participation this year.”

Last year, the event raised around $10,000 and the organizers are hoping to either match that amount or reach $15,000 this year. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $300,000 for pediatric cancer research.

The money raised is split between Memorial Hospital in South Bend and St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on childhood cancer research. However, the efforts of The Bald and The Beautiful go beyond just raising money. The event has also sponsored a playroom called “The Bald and The Beautiful Room” in Memorial Hospital and the group also organizes visits to Memorial Hospital a few times a month. On Wednesday, children from the hospital will be coming to the fundraiser for arts and crafts.

“We wanted to support the children’s hospital here because those were the kids we could interact with and it’s in South Bend,” Bramanti said. “And the St. Baldrick’s Foundation was the research-related side of it. … We want to donate to a fewer number of places and make more substantial contributions.”

The Bald and The Beautiful began in 2009 when some members of the Freshmen Class Council began planning a service event in honor of one of their classmates, Sam Marx, who had been in a battle with cancer during his time on campus. The goal of the event was to keep Sam’s vibrant presence alive on campus after he left for further treatment and to raise awareness for cancer research. At the first The Bald and The Beautiful, 126 students came out to shave their heads.

Last year, 258 people preregistered for the event and this year they have 100 individuals registered for donations — including 15 girls who are planning on shaving their heads. Around 500 people ended up participating last year, as people can also walk up the day of and participate.

“I have not participated in The Bald and the Beautiful before,” Elisabeth Lasecki, a sophomore who will be donating eight inches of her hair, said in an email. “I decided to participate because I was already planning to chop my hair, so I might as well do it for such an incredible cause.”

Bramanti has shaved his head the last two years.

“It’s funky. You feel like you have Velcro all over your head,” he said.

While shaving your head my not be for everyone, Belans said it lends one a strong emotional connection to those going through cancer.

“It [shaving your head] requires a lot of bravery and is a huge emotional challenge for people to go through and do that big empathic thing to stand in solidarity with people with cancer,” she said.

Belans has donated her hair three times to The Bald and The Beautiful.

“There’s all kinds of things we take for granted and one of the easiest ones is a full head of hair,” Bramanti said. “But on a shaving-your-head basis, you’re stepping into someone else’s shoes and seeing what it’s like. It’s an interesting experience. When you shave your head and you’re off campus where people don’t know you, you can get looked at kind of funny, like ‘why does this kid have a shaved head’ and maybe that’s something that people who are going through chemo have to deal with as their hair is growing back. It’s just trying to understand and get a little appreciation for how blessed we are to live the kind of lives we do and do what we can to help those who have to deal with the things we don’t.”

Lasecki is still apprehensive about the approaching date for her big haircut, but it excited to do her part for those battling cancer.

“I’ve wanted to cut my hair for a while now, but I’m definitely still a bit nervous,” Lasecki said. “I haven’t had short hair since I was pretty young. Nevertheless, I’m just grateful I can do my small part in the ongoing fight against cancer.”

Bramanti said if shaving your head has even crossed your mind before, it’s definitely a risk worth taking.

“I think everyone will get a little nervous when they think about shaving their head,” Bramanti said. “But, I never looked back. I’m very happy I did it the two times I did. If you haven’t done it and it’s something you’re thinking about, take a little leap of faith. You always have a conversation starter.”

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