Over the past decade, St. Baldrick’s Day has become a major fundraising event for pediatric cancer research. It all began in 1999 when a group of insurance executives in Manhattan shaved their heads in solidarity with young cancer patients. The majority of participants in the event are males, but a few women join them. And in Sitka last Friday, a teenage girl decided to take the plunge, raising nearly $3,000 in the process.
“I’m Celia Lubin. I’m 15 years old. And I go to Sitka High School.”
Lubin looks like a lot of teenagers. “My hair is purply, browny, blondy and its braids, and yeah.”
She does a bunch of activities, like swimming, soccer, drama & debate, concert band, and has her own radio show. But she’s doing something that very few teenage girls would do.
“I am shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s,” she said. “People who do chemo and lose their hair, it can be kind of isolating, I think, so showing them support, not only with money and, ‘Hey I’m raising awareness for this cause,” but, ‘I’m going to stand there with you.’”
At the St. Baldrick’s event at the Sitka Elks Lodge, men and boys are sitting in barber chairs on stage, while local hair stylists shave their heads. A little boy is walking around collecting pledges and stuffing them into an envelope. A crowd of about 100 people are sitting at the tables, eating dinner. Eight people are officially signed up to have their heads shaved, but many others hop onto to stage spontaneously to get their hair buzzed.
Lubin’s mom, Lisa Busch, says she was skeptical about her daughter’s decision at first.
“I thought, ‘Really? Can we pay you to not shave your head?’” she said.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m feeling really excited for Celia. Just like proud of her for doing this. Wondering what she’s going to look like bald,” she laughs.
Lubin says she was contemplating shaving her head before, but this gave her a reason to take the plunge that was hard for her parents to argue with.
“They didn’t really have a lot of say,” she said. “If they did object, I was just like, ‘hey, I’m not doing drugs. I’m raising money for cancer.’”
At the Elk’s Lodge, the announcer introduces Lubin to the crowd: “Who at 15 years old, would have shaved their head? This is a very brave young lady…”
“I’m a little bit nervous but I’m really excited,” Lubin said.
The hair stylist who’s going to cut Lubin’s hair helps the teenager get comfortable.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Casey. I shaved my head last year. It’s awesome. You’re gonna love it. Ready?”
“Alright, here it goes.”
Because she recently dyed her hair with streaks of purple, Lubin’s scalp has some colorful spots on it.
“Yeah,” she said. “I figured that would happen.”
After Lubin has her head totally shaved, she visits with her family.
“It looks great,” they said. “It looks so good. I’m proud of her. She has a nice-shaped head. I’m a proud papa.”
“It feels so good,” said Lubin. “I’ve never felt anything like this before.”
Lubin raised nearly $3,000 in pledges for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. By the end of the night, 18 people in Sitka had their heads shaved, and made more than $14,000.
Since 2004, the national organization has contributed more than $100 million to fight pediatric cancers.
Lubin does not see her participation as just a stunt.
“I know that I had a cancer-free childhood and it was really great,” she said. “I just think it would be really scary for kids my age and younger to have to go through something like a life-threatening illness like cancer, and I want to be able to help a little bit.”
And she says she’s not worried about her lost locks.
“I mean, it will grow back,” she said. “It is hair. It’s just hair.”