COLUMBIA — Although people were shouting and taking pictures all around her, Jennifer Lawson’s face conveyed concentrated calm. She was going bald for a good cause: to conquer childhood cancer.
Lawson is a pediatric therapist at MU’s Children's Hospital. “We lost a lot of our kids last year. I am doing this in their honor,” she said.
“To me, it is just hair. Bald is beautiful. I am gonna rock it,” Lawson said.
About 60 people had their heads shaved Saturday at Mojo’s to raise funds for childhood cancer research.
“Cancer is the number one cause of children deaths by disease,” Drew Shinneman, event organizer and a fourth-year medical student, said. “We lose our hair as a solidarity gesture to show people that we care.”
Billy McKinley, 39, had his head shaved for the first time. “I will let it grow for next year,” he said.
Thomas Loew, director of pediatric oncology at MU’s Children's Hospital, dressed up in a muscle suit for the occasion. “This year’s theme is stronger, like Kelly Clarkson’s song. I have the strongest patients in the planet,” he said.
Nathan Tuley and his family came from Jefferson City. His 18-month-old child, Josiah, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and is currently being treated with chemotherapy.
“Our child’s sickness has opened our eyes to what other families go through," he said. “We are fortunate Josiah’s sickness has a high success rate.”
Raimond Plue, 68, grew his long white hair specifically for the occasion. He was one of the first brave ones.
The haircuts were done by professional stylists, with most of the volunteers from Pela Cura Downtown Salon.
Money raised will be given to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research.
Last year, MU medical students raised more than $55,000 for the foundation, according to a news release from the organization. In its third year, the organization hopes to raise $65,000. At the beginning of the event, more than half of that total was already raised.
Since St. Baldrick’s Foundation started in 2000, events such as this one have raised more than $162 million nationwide, according to the news release.
The volunteers said they will proudly tell friends and family why they are bald. “Children are not alone in this fight,” Loew said.