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FGCU Bald Eagles look to make a difference

Every three minutes, a child somewhere in the world is diagnosed with cancer and only four percent of federal funding in the U.S. is put toward research for it. The St. Baldrick’s foundation is on a mission to change this, and FGCU is on a mission to help.

FGCU is preparing to participate in its fifth St. Baldrick’s Day on campus, Nov. 4.

Last year, St. Baldrick’s put $28,726,542 toward childhood cancer research grants and advocacy. That amount was just over 77 percent of its net revenue. The foundation’s goal is to spend as little as possible on operating costs, so the majority of the money it makes can go back to helping kids with cancer.

Sisters Catherine and Claire Gorman spearheaded the first St. Baldrick’s Day in 2011 as a project for their honors Foundations of Civic Engagement course. The library lawn was a large patch of grass at the time, and with no funding, the sisters “strapped two tents together” for the event.

With a goal of $1,500, the project raised more than $3,500. Climbing each year, the event raised more than $16,000 last year. The night before the event, FGCU had raised more than $4,700, meaning that more than $11,000 was raised during the event.

“Every year, the FGCU community shows how supportive and generous it is,” said Catherine Gorman, the coordinator for Undergraduate Studies. “It’s amazing. Every cent raised at the event goes to the organization.”

Karen Muhl, a junior at FGCU and the lead student organizer for the event, said that the event is interactive.

“It’s a fundraiser and entertainment,” Muhl said. “We have a lot of fun for a great cause.” St. Baldrick’s Day has come a long way since its inception with two tents. Now, the Veterans Pavilion serves as a stage for the “shavees,” those who choose to get their heads shaved.

Muhl, Gorman and other student volunteers also take the stage to invite on-the-spot participants. People don’t need to sign up prior to the event; they can simply show up and decide to shave their head at the event.

In the 2013 event, Sydney Trombly was challenged by FGCU faculty member Dr. Sean Kelly to raise more money than he had.

“He had raised $300, and because I can’t turn down a challenge, I said, ‘If I raise $301, I’ll shave my head,’” Trombly said. “I raised $625.”

Despite her mother’s advice to not shave off her beautiful hair, Trombly participated in the event to honor her good friend she had lost to cancer in high school.

“I just figured, if she could live her life with no hair and still be the awesome, sarcastic, spunky, fantasic person she was, I could handle a couple of months,” Trombly said.

The staff from Zervos Salon in Fort Myers volunteers as the shavers. Nick Zervos, the owner of the salon, shuts the shop down for the day to come support the event.

Jimmy John’s off Alico Road sponsors the event by providing free sandwiches to anybody who comes out to support.

This year, Jessica Scanlon, an FGCU student and membership director for the Panhellenic Council, will be selling “Headbands for Hope.” For every headband bought, a dollar will be donated to St. Baldrick’s.

This year, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation established a College Tournament called “Battle of the Bald.” The tournament is intended to stir up friendly competition among participating colleges to see who can raise the most for childhood cancer research. At the beginning of this week, FGCU had 62 participants listed and was in 12th place out of 38 schools, having raised $3,900 of a goal of $15,000.

Kennesaw State, one of FGCU’s big Atlantic Sun Conference rivals, is in first place with almost $33,000 raised and 167 participants. They have already had their head-shaving event, and the tournament runs until Nov. 30;,meaning, FGCU has time to make up ground.

Currently, Professor Kristoph Kinzli is in the lead as an individual participant, having raised $890.

Any group of people can form a team. The Honors Program leads the teams so far with $760, but the Kappa Alpha Order isn’t far behind with $605 raised. In past years, Pi Kappa Phi has been a big supporter as well.

Since 2012, more than 200 heads have been shaved at each event. Last year, there were 10 female participants and 12 faculty members.

“The promotion of solidarity is one of the main points of the event,” said Billy Gunnels, a faculty member. “For many, going bald, as a result of cancer treatments, compounds the problem by making a person uncomfortable and insecure. I have chosen the foolish route each year because it can distract from the baldness of cancer. I know that the logic is silly, but I have never dealt with cancer. So, I can only imagine the secondary considerations, such as appearance, let alone the primary issues associated with the illness.”

Nora Johnson, a sophomore and co-social media and marketing chair for St. Baldrick’s at FGCU, has been involved since her freshman year.

“I didn’t realize the significance of the event until I volunteered,” Johnson said. “It was one of the first events that I noticed could draw everyone. It was really powerful.” The Library Lawn will be loud and energized with the sounds of volunteers, looking to make this year’s St. Baldrick’s Day more successful than the last, keeping the positive trend in donations.

The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the official FGCU webpage,  Facebook and @FGCUStBaldricks on Twitter. Supporters can use #FGCUBaldEagles and #Goingbaldbecause on social media to spread the messages of the day’s event.

About The Author

Melissa Neubek

Melissa, aka Meli, is a second year journalism major. Originally from Boston (Go Pats!), she’s been in Florida for three years now. She graduated from Boston University with her photography degree in 2011 and now owns her own photography business with her husband. If she’s not busy schooling or photographing, she can be found cooking, watching HGTV or Netflix, or traveling. She loves writing simply because it’s fun. She loves National Geographic, the color purple and monkeys. She really doesn’t like math, watermelons, and having to repeat herself.

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