For the seventh consecutive year, hundreds of supporters will gather at Cricket Square in September to cheers on individuals who will have their heads shaved to help raise funds for child cancer research.

Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave started in 2013 as a small group of parents of children with cancer who had a mission to raise awareness and funds for research. Since then, fundraising in Cayman has generated US$2.2 million for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest non-government funder of childhood cancer research in the United States.

So far, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has funded nine research grants, all named in honour of cancer survivor Hannah Meeson, at prestigious institutes across the US, including Johns Hopkins, Dana Farber and Duke University, where researchers are working on life-changing treatments and cures.

The Big Shave has made it into the foundation’s top 10 fundraisers every year since 2014 amidst hundreds of events around the world, and is St. Baldrick’s most successful overseas fundraiser.

With just 12 weeks until the seventh Big Shave, organisers are encouraging supporters to forego their summer haircuts and sign up to shave their heads and help fund further research grants for all types of childhood cancer research.

This year’s Big Shave will take place on Friday, 20 Sept., at The Wicket in Cricket Square.

“The efforts of the Cayman community have been entirely life-changing for children and families facing a cancer diagnosis everywhere,” said Gaylene Meeson, founder of Hannah’s Heroes and mother of 11-year-old Hannah, who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in 2012.

“Just 50 years ago, all kids diagnosed with cancer died,” she said. “Because of research today, about 90% of kids with the most common types of cancer will live, but for many other types, progress has been limited and for some there is still little hope for a cure.

“Currently, all childhood cancers combined receive only 4% of US federal funding for cancer research, so without vital research funded by organizations like St. Baldrick’s, Hannah and children like her simply will not survive. All children deserve to grow up and realise their full potential and it’s something that most families take for granted.”

Organisers said that when the crowd gathers in Cricket Square on 20 Sept., they will celebrate and honour Cayman’s childhood cancer heroes, Matthew Chong Ping, 15; Tayden Grant, 12; Hannah Meeson, 11; Charli Foster, 11; Allie Capasso, 11; Beau Shields, 9; Ava Paige Rico, 9; Annabelle Reading, 8; Saylor Sperandeo, 8; and Mimi Ebanks, 6; and will remember the children who lost their battle with the disease – Dimitrie Connor, 15; Caitlin Beverley, 8; and Albert Ebanks, 16.

Amongst those already signed for the shave is five-time shavee Eugene Nolan of Savage Consulting, who has raised more than $40,000 for Hannah’s Heroes.

“It’s an amazing and humbling event and such an important cause,” he said. “As a parent, I thank God for my healthy daughter and the bright future she has ahead of her. I feel incredibly lucky we can make a difference to kids fighting cancer by doing something so simple. This event inspires everyone and demonstrates how a small community can pull together to make a huge difference and create a future where kids don’t die from cancer and can just be kids.”

Several teams have already committed their support ahead of this year’s event, including teams from Maples, Dart, PwC, KPMG, the Cayman Islands Fire Service. Students at Clifton Hunter High School, Cayman Prep and High School and John Gray High School will be hosting satellite shave events for students and staff to raise funds throughout September.

The organisers said they recognise that shaving is not for everyone, but are encouraging the entire community to get involved throughout Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by hosting bake sales, dress-down days at work or school, sponsoring a colleague or friend shaving at The Big Shave and by attending the event on 20 Sept.

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