By Deborah Glick
One word that would describe it: Promising. Promising was the 50-100 students who came in and out of the auditorium to celebrate survival, life, and hope. Promising was the 30 plus students and teachers who shaved their heads. Promising was the St. Baldrick’s Ode to Rain event on April 16.
Few realize how much of an impact small talks in the living room can have on life. However, Sophomore Katie Tan will never forget the conversation she had with her mother one night in ninth grade. That night, Tan’s mother told her how her co-worker shaved her head to support pediatric cancer research. “This [cancer] cause has [always been important] to me. For years I have wanted to be a cancer doctor. At that moment I pretty much made up my mind that I wanted to [shave my head] bald for pediatric cancer research,” Tan said.
And she did. Last year, Tan, along with sophomores Skyler Chin and Jacob Mathai, went to an Irish pub in West Islip to shave their heads. She remembers it as being a “party atmosphere” with many attendees. That atmosphere was what partly inspired her to bring the event to South.
Tan shaved her head through an organization called St. Baldrick’s. In this organization, people are sponsored to get their heads shaved. The ‘shavees’ raise money before the event, and this money goes to pediatric cancer research. The baldness is symbolic for two reasons: It shows support for those children who are going through treatment such as chemotherapy and spreads the word about childhood cancer research. Each ‘shavee’ receives a pin that has “Ask me why I’m bald” printed on it. When the ‘shavees’ explain their haircut, they are spreading awareness about St. Baldrick’s.
For Tan, the haircut was “exhilarating. Like the moment you take off in the race; surreal.” It was that feeling that motivated her to hold a St. Baldrick’s event at South. “One of the biggest issues is school spirit, and if this isn’t school spirit, it’s some kind of force that brings everyone together.”
Many students and faculty came to support St. Baldrick’s. Music, food, and laughter filled the auditorium as South stood up against pediatric cancer. “It says a lot about who our kids are. No matter what the event is, whether it’s for hurricane relief or tsunami relief, this school really steps forward and helps,” said Assistant Principal John Duggan.
As students and faculty gathered, stories of survival and death were shared. Health teacher Mr. James Millevoi shaved his head in memory of his late brother-in-law who died of cancer as a child. South Middle technology teacher Mr. Michael Meehan lost his brother ten years ago to cancer. His brother was 42 and had six kids. “I knew that one of the hardest parts was telling his kids. To me, this is a very small gesture that I can do to help raise awareness and money to finding a cure so that nobody has to tell their kid that he or she has cancer. It’s really nice to be able to know that you stepped up and you were able to do something so small for a cause so big.”
Promising was also freshman Niamh Mohan, the only girl who shaved her head. When Niamh was seven, she had a tumor removed from her shoulder. Although it was benign, the procedure left an impact on her. “When people ask me why I’m bald, it will be a good feeling to say why.”
“I think it’s amazing,” Principal Susan Elliott said. “And it was that simple. It was that amazing.” As of April 16, $8,728 was raised, which is more than double the original goal of $3,650. Sophomore Brett Kolodny raised the most money, and contributed $2,012 to the organization.