By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published March 24, 2005
Cathedral of Christ the King spiritual formation coordinator Bernadette Flowers decided to give something unusual up for Lent this year—her hair.
She joined thousands of people across the country willing to let go of glamour for a good cause: fund-raising for research into childhood cancer.
Flowers was among several dozen people who had their heads professionally shaved at Park Tavern in Atlanta March 11 before a crowd of several hundred cheering, enthusiastic supporters. Also taking part were other teams, including14 men and women from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta known as Hope and Will’s Hairless Heroes. With the theme “be brave—go bald” similar events were happening from coast to coast and elsewhere in Georgia, particularly in Irish pubs.
A team of one, Flowers dubbed herself “Green Lent.” She was inspired when a member of the Cathedral’s RCIA class asked for donations on behalf of the Children’s Healthcare team on what is known as St. Baldrick’s Day.
“She sent out an e-mail asking for donations. Somehow I didn’t see that. I said, ‘Oh, I’ll get a haircut.’” Flowers recalled.
Although not “a long-haired girl” under any circumstances, Flowers said it happened she was letting her close-cropped cut grow out this Lent with an eye to restyling it after Easter.
When she heard about St. Baldrick’s Day she saw it as a Lenten activity, combining sacrifice and almsgiving. Since last November, she added, she’s learned of six or seven people she knows who are battling cancer. She didn’t expect the impact it has had.
“I originally set a goal of $500. I thought I can probably muster up $500 among my friends. That was on Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, we had pretty much hit that goal and it kept going and going and going and going … We’re over $2,200 in basically over a week of working,” Flowers said. “What struck me was how little it takes of us and how we can do great things.”
It is the fifth year for the St. Baldrick’s Day phenomenon, which started when three New York friends challenged one another to give something back to their community. The three reinsurance industry executives came up with the idea of going bald on or around St. Patrick’s Day in a high profile event to get friends, co-workers, family and the general public to donate funds for much-needed cancer research into treating and eliminating childhood cancers.
The action of going bald both entices donations and shows solidarity with children suffering from cancer who often lose their hair while undergoing cancer treatment.
Since March 17, 2000, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has raised approximately $7 million for research. The primary beneficiary of the funds is CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation, which supports a network of physicians, nurses and scientists who conduct clinical trials in childhood cancer and perform cutting-edge research at more than 200 member institutions, representing every pediatric cancer program in North America.
The St. Baldrick’s Web site points out that “46 children, or two classrooms of students, are diagnosed every day. Over the last 25 years, the incidence of childhood cancer has increased every year. Forty years ago, childhood cancer was almost always fatal. Today, through the advancements in diagnosis and treatment, 77 percent of children with cancer can now be cured. Despite this remarkable progress in research and treatment, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in children.”
The St. Baldrick’s Day fund-raiser this year was taking place in Canada, France and Bermuda, as well as the United States, in about 200 locations.
“It is just amazing to see how God can use a little thing that you do. I always think you’ve got to do something big … (but) you can just get a haircut and make a difference in life,” Flowers said. “Other than a little itch here and there, I’m none the worse for wear.”
“It is much more spiritual than meets the eye,” she said, adding, “I’m already sort of working on next year. I can’t be a team of one.”
For more information visit www.stbaldricks.org.