Students start St. Baldrick’s chapter to raise funds for pediatric cancer research


Source: Brian Liu

Weinberg junior Brian Liu has his head shaved at a St. Baldrick’s event last spring. Liu founded the Northwestern chapter of the pediatric cancer research foundation, which launched at the beginning this quarter.

Rachel Silverstein, Reporter

The newly formed Northwestern chapter of pediatric cancer research foundation, St. Baldrick’s, is recruiting new members and spreading the word about its April 16 head-shaving fundraiser.

Brian Liu, the volunteer event chair and founder of the NU chapter of St. Baldrick’s, has been involved with the organization for more than a decade.

“I’ve been shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s since maybe fourth or fifth grade, so it’s been a part of my life for a really long time,” the Weinberg junior said.

The foundation held its first event in a Manhattan pub on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000, where the first 19 heads were shaved. Since then, it has become a nationwide organization, shaving more than 50,000 heads and raising more than $36 million in 2015.

St. Baldrick’s, committed to combatting childhood cancer, donates all of the money it raises from head shaving events and other fundraisers to fund research through the Children’s Oncology Group.

“Research for childhood cancer is some of the most underfunded cancer research,” said Keaton McNamara, the NU chapter’s outreach chair.

The mortality rate for kids diagnosed with childhood cancers is much higher than that of the more common cancers found in adults, the Weinberg sophomore said.

The act of shaving heads is unique, McNamara said, because it is both an effective way to raise money and a strong statement of support for kids who lose their hair as a result of chemotherapy and other treatments.

“When (kids) lose their hair during chemo, it can be a really traumatic thing and it’s a really isolating thing that they have to deal with,” said Ushasi Naha, one of St. Baldrick’s two recruitment chairs. “This is supposed to show support and solidarity in the most visible way and at the same time, the money that is raised is going towards finding a cure for these diseases.”

The NU chapter of St. Baldrick’s, which launched at the start of this quarter, is still in the beginning stages of development. It has established three executive positions so far, and the executive board is working on organizing committees under each position, McNamara said.

In the next few months, the executive board’s goal is to spread the word about their work, Naha said.

“We’ll be doing fundraising events, profit shares and we’re thinking about trying to do things with other organizations that have similar causes so that we can combine forces,” said Naha, a Weinberg junior.

The organization’s main focus for this year is the shaving event in April, Liu said.

“Participants will shave their heads as both an act of solidarity with children who lose their hair from chemo and, more importantly, as a means of raising money,” Liu said.

The goal is to not only make this event an annual tradition, but also to extend its scope beyond campus to involve Evanston and even Chicago residents in fundraising and head-shaving, McNamara said.

Although the organization is in its first year, Liu said they have high hopes for the future.

“Long run, we want to be able to hold many different events throughout the year and be able to connect students to volunteer opportunities at local hospitals,” Liu said.

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