Bald is beautiful, so they say, and if that was the case, there will be nothing more beautiful than the sight a local audience will behold this Friday.

More than 1,000 people are expected to gather at The Wicket in Cricket Square to witness the fifth annual Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave. The event is held for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to raise money for childhood cancer research.

A huge crowd gathers each year to cheer on those who are actively participating – the ones having their heads shaved – who have spent the last weeks getting sponsors for the cause.

Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave was conceived by Cayman residents Gaylene and Nigel Meeson to raise awareness about childhood cancer. In 2012 their daughter Hannah was diagnosed with anaplastic medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer. Hannah turned 10 on Sept. 18.

“Hannah currently has no evidence of disease,” says Gayle. “We never thought we would celebrate Hannah’s 10th birthday, and she has amazingly defied the odds that left her with a less than 5 percent chance of survival. But she suffers many disabilities following treatment, including impaired balance, partial deafness, vision loss, cognitive, memory and fine motor deficits and slow processing.

“Hannah is not alone; by the time childhood cancer survivors are 45 years old, more than 95 percent of them will have a chronic health problem or life-threatening condition. Without organizations like St. Baldrick’s, Hannah and children like her will simply not survive.”

Other childhood cancer survivors in Cayman are involved in helping to raise money and awareness, including Skylar “Mimi” Ebanks, Annabelle Reading, Beau Shields, Tayden Grant and Charli Foster. There is no treatment available for childhood cancer in the Cayman Islands, so it was necessary for them all to travel frequently to the U.S. for treatment, followed by ongoing check-ups.

Hannah Meeson, front row, second from right, is joined by the younger generation Awesome Heroes group.

Hannah’s Heroes is a Hero Fund of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest nongovernment funder of childhood cancer research in the U.S. The Foundation has awarded US$230 million in childhood cancer research grants, and since 2012 has been funding the ground-breaking research that led to the FDA approval of CAR T Cell therapy for children with leukemia.

St. Baldrick’s CEO Kathleen Ruddy is traveling from California to attend this year’s Big Shave to thank the Cayman community for their continued fundraising efforts. Ruddy’s travel is sponsored by local firm Conyers Dill & Pearman.

“I am profoundly moved by the way the Cayman community has united to support Hannah’s Heroes and take childhood back from cancer,” says Ruddy. “Since the first head shaving event in 2013, Hannah’s Heroes has raised over US$1.4 million to fund lifesaving childhood cancer research.

“Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave is one of St. Baldrick’s largest events and I am honored to be able to attend the event this year and meet the dedicated volunteers and donors who have generated such resources to help children survive cancer.”

In recognition of Hannah’s brave battle and her quest to raise awareness and funding, St. Baldrick’s has named four specific research grants in honor of Hannah’s Heroes.

Among those in the Big Shave next week are the Cayman Islands fire service team “The Firebalds,” corporate teams “Maples & Balder,” DART, PwC and MUFG, the parents of local childhood cancer survivors and several schoolchildren. As of press time, more than $60,000 had already been raised by those who will have their heads shaved.

The Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave for St. Baldrick’s will take place on Friday at The Wicket in Cricket Square from 5-9 p.m. There will be a silent auction, balloon prize raffle and food and drink specials from the Brasserie. Visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/hannahsheroes or email [email protected] for more information.

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