Almost 100 people made the bold choice to go bald on Friday night at the third annual Heroes for Hannah shave event in support of childhood cancer research.
The hundreds who attended, many as spectators, raised more than $280,000 for the Heroes for Hannah “Hero Fund,” organizers said.
“The community has been amazing,” said Gaylene Meeson, organizer and mother of Hannah, who was diagnosed with a type of brain cancer in 2012. “They’ve filled us with hope that we can make the world a better place. If we fund research, it will make a difference.”
The event, inspired by Hannah, also shines a spotlight on other local kids who have battled or are still battling cancer.
“Tonight, it’s not about Hannah; it’s about all kids fighting cancer,” Ms. Meeson said.
As “Eye of the Tiger” blasted from the speakers, the parents of some of those childhood cancer survivors were the first to have their heads shaved on stage at the Wicket at Cricket Square in George Town.
Woody Foster said goodbye to a wild mohawk he had grown especially for the event, while his daughter Charli danced around him, tossing handfuls of his shorn hair up in the air. Charli, who is 8, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008.
“I love this event,” Mr. Foster said. “The emotion is unbelievable, it’s indescribable really. It’s a truly powerful event.”
That emotion was palpable as Mechon Evangelista-Ebanks took to the stage to say a prayer for Mimi, her 2-year-old daughter who has been battling brain cancer since she was 5 weeks old.
Ms. Evangelista-Ebanks had her head shaved, along with a number of her Caribbean Utilities Company colleagues, at work Friday morning.
“It doesn’t get easier, Ms. Evangelista-Ebanks said. “Every time you shave your head, all of those emotions come in and it just flash-floods you. The bottom line is we’re doing it because our children don’t have a cure, and that’s the passion we’re relying on, because we want to find a cure.”
This year’s head-shaving participants were a diverse group, including two MLAs (Winston Connolly and Roy McTaggart), corporate teams, 18 women, and even a number of young children.
Hannah’s 6-year-old best friend, Olly Thorpe, shed her 9-inch blonde ponytail, and 9-year-old Matteo Carbini shaved his long, dark locks.
Shaving was a family affair for the Grants, who have been personally touched by childhood cancer. Their 8-year-old son, Tayden, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia five years ago. Tayden and his dad Trent, mom Belinda, and brothers Tajai, 7, and Trey, 6, all had their heads shaved at the event.
“Do it for the kids,” said Belinda Grant. “It’s so worth it.”
The shaving is more than just a symbolic gesture – shavees also raise money to support the fund.
Cayman-based corporations went all-out this year, raising thousands of dollars. The highest fundraising team was Dart Cayman Islands, which raised more than $50,000. Maples and Calder, whose team name was “Maples and Balder,” raised more than $46,000. Team “Gonyers” and Team “Least We Can Do” each raised about $35,000, and several other corporate teams also contributed significant amounts.
All of the money raised by Heroes for Hannah is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer research charity that has funded more than $176 million in childhood cancer research grants since 2004.
Of the hundreds of St. Baldrick’s shave events worldwide every year, Heroes for Hannah is one of the most successful, according to St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund Manager Kelly Forebaugh. She said Heroes for Hannah is one of the top 10 fundraising events worldwide.
Ms. Meeson said she is “thrilled” that the event has drawn so much support from the community, including the participants, volunteers and businesses that have donated services and prizes.
“Everybody has been touched by cancer or knows someone who’s been touched by cancer,” Ms. Meeson said, but with research, she said, there is hope for those fighting childhood cancer.
“The survival rate for leukemia has gone from 10 percent to 90 percent in the last 50 years and that’s from research,” Ms. Meeson said.
Donations to the Heroes for Hannah fund can be made until the end of the year online at www.stbaldricks.org/events/heroesforhannah/.