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Bald Eagles for a cause

A haircut can save a life.
On Nov. 5, months of work by adjunct professor Catherine Gorman, junior Karen Muhl and a team of volunteers will result in the shaving of more than 200 student and faculty member heads and thousands of dollars of donations to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an international organization dedicated to researching childhood cancer. On St. Baldrick’s Day events, which are held year-round, volunteers donate money and have their heads shaved to show solidarity against childhood cancer.
Gorman put on the first St. Baldrick’s Day event at Florida Gulf Coast University three years ago as a project for her civic engagement class. She has continued to coordinate the event every year since.
“This is an organization that is close to me because childhood cancer is really underfunded. A lot of funding for cancer research goes toward adult cancer research, and childhood cancer gets neglected,” Gorman said. “But when you’re sick as a child, what do you take? You take children’s Advil, children’s Motrin, children’s Tylenol … childhood cancer needs its own research.”
Aside from its focus on childhood cancer, Gorman said that the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a unique organization because of its transparency.
“Every cent that we raise goes toward research,” Gorman said. “Not one cent of the money can go toward putting on the event.”
This is possible because of several event sponsors.
“Zervos’ Salon actually shuts down their salon for the day and brings in stylists to shave heads, free of charge,” Gorman said. “And the manager of the Alico Jimmy Johns, Zack Eaton, is an FGCU alumnus. For the last three years, Jimmy Johns has been a sponsor, and Zack has gotten his head shaved.”
Last year, FGCU had more than 200 shavees raise more than $10,000 for the foundation. The shavees included faculty, staff members and students, nine of whom were women. The top team for donations was Pi Kappa Phi, which raised $2,130 and had each member shave his head.
This year, more than 200 volunteers are expected to brave the shave. They will include 11 faculty and staff members such as associate professor Billy Gunnels, senior secretary Carolina Contreras and director of general education Eric Otto. There are also five women registered to shave their heads, including ACE student Jordan Pilant, who has so far raised $1,170 of her $2,000 goal.
Gorman and Muhl’s team involves more than 40 volunteers. This will be Muhl’s third year working on the event.
“I volunteer because I feel it’s my contribution as a student,” Muhl said.
“Students don’t always have the funds to make a monetary donation, so volunteering is the next best option to make an impact. I chose to volunteer with St. Baldrick’s specifically because I believe in the cause and I feel like can make a considerable contribution.”
Gorman and Muhl anticipate a lot of people will show up the day of the event just to watch, and decide to have their heads shaved on the spot. Muhl encourages everybody to stop by the event for at least a few minutes.
“Even if you just want to watch and get a free sandwich in between classes, just go out there and show your support,” Muhl said.
Despite all the excitement the day of the event, Gorman’s favorite part is the following morning.
“My favorite part is the day after, seeing all of the bald heads on campus. All of those people have made a difference and are heroes for childhood cancer,” Gorman said.
Donations can be made online at and in person the day of the event. St. Baldrick’s Day will be held on the library lawn from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
While donations are encouraged, Muhl said that the act of shaving your head is the most important part of St. Baldrick’s. “It’s to show solidarity, it’s to show that you’re standing with the kids in that situation,” she said.
It will be the most impactful free haircut you ever receive.

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