It was another great turnout for Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave event in support of St. Baldrick’s Foundation childhood cancer research on Friday.
The total raised this year at the head shave was $284,941 and climbing as of Sunday morning, according to the Hannah’s Heroes team. The event is named after young cancer survivor Hannah Meeson.
Hundreds of supporters attended the event at The Wicket in Cricket Square on Friday, including Governor Martyn Roper and his wife Elisabeth. The governor said that since arriving on island earlier this year, he had heard about the head shave fundraiser from a lot of people and he was delighted to give his support.
He even took up the role of barber at one point in the evening, shaving the head of Foster’s Managing Director Woody Foster, whose 12-year-old daughter Charli is a leukaemia survivor.
Gaylene Meeson, founder of Hannah’s Heroes and mother of 12‑year-old Hannah who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer in 2012, beamed with delight at the huge turnout of supporters.
“The Big Shave just gets bigger and better and better every year,” she said. “We learn from the year before and we make improvements.”
Hannah, she said, is doing phenomenally well. “She has a lot of obstacles, but she takes on life with gusto and she’s just the most amazing little individual. “Be bold, go bald for Hannah’s Heroes,” said Meeson, who also underwent the barber’s electric shaver on Friday.
St. Baldrick’s Foundation Hero Fund Manager Kelly Forebaugh, whose flight to Cayman for the event was paid for by Conyers, said the money raised would go to fund paediatric cancer research grants. Over the past seven years, the Hannah’s Heroes head shave has raised more than US$2.3 million for St. Baldrick’s, she said.
“Every year since the event has happened, it has been in the top 10 of St. Baldrick’s events,” she added.
The six barbers who volunteered on Friday shaved the heads of at least 127 participants, including 22 members of the Cayman Islands Fire Service.
“We have been supporting Hannah from the first time we met her,” said Roy Charlton, Fire Service deputy chief who was among those who had his head shaved.
“Listening to her story and stories from other kids as well, we felt it was something we wanted to do. For the last four to five years, we have supported the event and we look at Hannah and others that have survived as our heroes. Hopefully, they will find a cure for childhood cancer,” Charlton said.
One impromptu shavee was Sergeant Jonathan Kern, who was in uniform and on duty for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service at the event. “Someone in the crowd came up and said, ‘Officer, you have lovely hair. If we can raise $500 now, would you shave your head?’ I said if they could do that, I wouldn’t have much of a choice. So, they went on stage and announced it, and within a minute, we had raised about $850, and one person donated $700 on the spot.”
Shavees this year ranged in ages from 9 to 73 years old. Among them was Jack Copper of NeutralStudio SEZC, who said had not cut off all his hair or beard since 1974.
“The reason I chose St. Baldrick’s … was Kerri Kanuga. She is a friend of mine and a long-distance runner, she is the one that inspired me to donate to the St. Baldrick’s,” Copper said. Kanuga has dedicated many of her runs to Hannah, raising funds along the way.
After shaving his head, he said, in all the places he frequented, people did a triple take. “I am also surprised when I look in the mirror,” he said.
Another shavee, Joan Austin, 73, following her recent breast cancer diagnosis raised more than $6,700 to raise funds for childhood cancer research.
Tom Dickens, a 15‑year-old student attending Cayman International School, went straight for the buzz cut. The last time he cut his hair was for the funeral of his grandmother, who passed away from after a battle of leukaemia, he said.
“I saw her decline,” he said. “I can just imagine kids going through the same thing, it just pains me.
“I have really long hair and the one thing I realised I could do was shave and donate the money to St. Baldrick’s.”
Rayne Euvrard, a 9‑year-old Cayman Prep School student, decided on the day to cut her hair.
“I want to raise cancer awareness about childhood cancer. I feel pretty sad for children who have cancer,” she said.
Also amongst the freshly shorn on Friday were the Trent Grant, father to leukaemia survivor Tayden, age 12; Tommy Ebanks whose daughter Mimi was diagnosed with ependymoma at 6 months; Walter and Donna Capasso, whose daughter Allie is a survivor of adrenal cortical carcinoma; and Tom Sperandeo whose 8-year-old son Saylor is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia. Also present were cancer survivors Beau Shields, 9, Ava Paige Rico, 9, and Annabelle Reading, 8.
The top fundraising teams this year included Maples and Balder ($42,733), Dart ($26,871), Ogier Fund-Razors ($18,927), Cayman Prep and High School ($16,005), KPMG ($13,167) and Foster’s ($11,624).
Also, 15 children had their heads shaved on Friday, including students from Cayman International School and their teacher John Lane, who collectively raised more than $24,000.
After people got their heads shaved, they took pictures of their shiny bald heads at the photo booth.
Attendees also supported the silent auction to win numerous prizes, and the balloon prize raffle. Shaves were also carried out in the schools to support the event.