#106: Support Someone Who Does St. Baldrick’s

UVA students pride themselves on engaging in a diverse range of activities on Grounds. From the start of our time at the University, we are given the opportunity to sign up for a variety of clubs, teams, and activities. Community Service-based activities tend to be one of the more popular involvements for students. Out of the list of 113 Things To Do Before You Graduate, four are explicitly related to service-based activities (#13 Eat a Pancake for Parkinson’s, #47 Volunteer at Madison House, #78 Participate in a Sorority or Fraternity Philanthropy Event, and #106 Support Someone Who Does St. Baldrick’s).

The annual UVA St. Baldrick’s event took place this past Thursday night. This event is definitely different than many other UVA community service-based events throughout the year. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a childhood cancer research charity, and the organization holds events all over the world where participants raise money to shave their heads for children’s cancer research.

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The UVA St. Baldrick’s event had 146 participants, and raised $85,872 for cancer research. I spoke with top-fundraising participant Phoebe Willis, a Fourth-Year Trustee and member of the UVA Field Hockey team. Phoebe was able to raise $14,281 to shave her head for the event.

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Phoebe Willis, a UVA St. Baldrick’s Participant

Here are some of the things that Phoebe had to say just a few days before the event took place:

What made you decide to participate, and why St. Baldrick’s in particular?
This fall when my field hockey season and my time as a Division I athlete ended, I wanted to find an organization where I was still a part of a something bigger than myself. I had thought about doing St. Baldrick’s before and decided that would be a great way to get involved with something local that also had a national impact. Through my fundraising efforts I ended up meeting a 12 year old boy from my hometown suffering from Leukemia. Hearing Travis’ story and going to his chemotherapy treatment at VCU was the most eye-opening experience for me. Travis made St. Baldrick’s personal for me, and it became more than just a “thing I was doing”–it became a passion.

How did your friends and family members react when you told them you would be shaving your head for charity?
Haha, well at first my parents offered to pay me NOT to shave my head. When I told them I was really serious about doing this, they became completely obsessed with it and were a huge part of helping me spread the word about what I was doing- there is no way I could’ve done this without my parents and my siblings support. Most of my friends think I’m crazy anyways, so they weren’t very surprised when I told them I was doing this and they are also played a huge role in helping me promote St. Baldrick’s.

How are you going about fundraising? Do you have a set goal to raise by Thursday?
I set an arbitrary goal of $25,000 just because at the time I had no idea how much to aim for and I thought that sounded like a lot of money. (IT IS) As of today I’ve raised $12,586 and surpassed 50% of that amount! In all honesty, I just wanted to raise as much money as possible because I think this is an important cause. I have had a pretty amazing fundraising campaign, with the help of my family, friends, and even complete strangers! It’s been a very grassroots effort (the average amount given is below $100) and it’s been really awesome to interact with people from all over the country who also believe in eradicating childhood cancer.

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This year’s event was held at The Biltmore. Shavees were given particular time slots so that they could inform friends and family of when to attend the event. When Phoebe’s 8:00 time slot hit, the shaving room was packed. Cameras were flashing consistently, and Phoebe smiled the entire time that her head was being shaved. After her head was fully shaved, Phoebe made her way through the crowd to Travis, her inspiration through her fundraising efforts. As she hugged Travis, Phoebe began to cry, launching a wave of emotion in the room.

When asked about Travis and his family, Phoebe said,

“I was so amazed at their support of me in the midst of all of Travis’ treatments, they inspired me to really “up” my fundraising game and try to raise as much money as possible for research to find a cure for childhood cancer.”

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Phoebe and Travis–Photo from Facebook

This was my first time attending St. Baldrick’s, but I wish that I had thought to attend during my other three years at UVA. Since St. Baldrick’s events occur all over the world, there are endless opportunities to support a St. Baldrick’s participant. The sacrifice that participants make by shaving their heads symbolizes only a small portion of the agony that child cancer patients must endure. Witnessing the UVA St. Baldrick’s participants sacrifice was truly touching, and entirely worthy of the List of 113 Things To Do Before You Graduate. For more information on St. Baldrick’s events and participants near you, visit www.stbaldricks.org.

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