Columbia residents get close shave to raise money for Aiden Taylor

Monday, March 10, 2014 | 6:37 p.m. CDT; updated 11:18 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 11, 2014
More than a dozen supporters of Aiden's Avengers embraced baldness Saturday at Mojo's during the Shave for Aiden fundraising event. Community support has already raised over $25,000 for Aiden Taylor and his family.

COLUMBIA  — When Tania Johnson left Mojo's on Saturday afternoon, all she had on her head was a pair of earrings.

Monica Korba and Meghan McCullah were also bald when they walked out, as was Victoria King, who, like the others, walked into the club with long hair.

All of the women had their heads shaved as a sign of support for Aiden Taylor, the 8-year-old Columbia boy fighting brain cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. The four women are friends and neighbors of the Taylor family.

Shave for Aiden attracted more than 200 other supporters. More than a dozen had their heads shaved, including a friend of Aiden's uncle who Skyped in from Boston and chopped off his beard as well as his hair. Four of Aiden's classmates also went bald.

The three-hour fundraiser included music, barbecue, a silent auction, a raffle and a bake sale.

Aiden was diagnosed with cancer in January and is undergoing radiation therapy. His parents, Josh and Lisa Taylor, have relocated to Memphis for the duration of his treatment.

The Taylors were Skyped in from Memphis. When Aiden appeared on the screen, the crowd cheered loudly as he thanked everyone for coming.

For many, it was the first time they'd heard Aiden's voice since before his diagnosis. After surgery, he was unable to speak for several weeks.

"I think that was a special moment for everyone," Korba said.

King organized the fundraiser after visiting Aiden in the hospital when he was recovering from brain surgery in January.

"I couldn't get the image of him in that hospital bed out of my mind," she said.

Participants agreed to have their heads shaved, a symbol of solidarity with the cancer patient, in exchange for donations.

The four women who initially stepped forward to shed their hair said their efforts paled in comparison to Aiden's battle.

"This is real. He's in Memphis, fighting for his life, and we're here, doing all of this for him," Korba said.

They wore Aiden's Avengers T-shirts and smiled nervously as the audience roared its approval.

"These are four of the most beautiful women I've ever seen," one audience member shouted.

As their heads were shorn, the women locked hands and didn't hide their emotions. Two of the women, McCullah and Johnson, had hair long enough to donate to Locks of Love.

"It was nice: I got to make a difference twice," said Johnson, who wore bright green hoops in her ears. Her son, Joshua, who also had his head shaved, is a good friend of Aiden's.

Korba said she received $4,000 in pledged donations within the first 16 hours of joining the fundraising effort.

She has lived next door to the Taylors for six years and has been at the center of many of the fundraising efforts since their son's diagnosis. Their neighborhood is a tightknit group, she said.

"We have fire pits, we go on vacations together, we're always outside," Korba said. "If you come over to my house, you're going to meet my neighbors."

Her daughter is Aiden's age, and the diagnosis struck close to home.

"I just thought, how could this happen?" she said. "This is one of ours."

Community support for Aiden in Columbia has raised more than $25,000.

In the weeks following his diagnosis, friends set up a Facebook page called Aiden's Avengers. A YouCaring account was established for online donations, and supporters held a fundraiser at Shakespeare's Pizza and a benefit dinner at the Elk's Lodge.

Classmates of Aiden's older brother Braxten have also been selling candy at Oakland Middle School to raise money for the family.

Korba said fundraising efforts are aimed at allowing Aiden's parents to focus on their son. St. Jude covers all living expenses in Memphis for families while patients are being treated, but the Taylors eventually must transition back to life in Columbia.

"I know, as a mother, that I would want to be able to be with my child as long as possible," Korba said. "I want them to be able to choose to be with their son and not have to worry about losing their home."

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