April 27th will mark my sixth year as a CSz St. Baldrick’s shavee, and I have entered each year with mixed emotions. Jerry Lewis used to always say at the end of his MDA telethons that he hoped there would be no need for one next year. I feel the same about St. Baldrick’s. I wish there was no need for one this year, but there is.
To me, St. Baldrick’s is the most crucial thing we at CSZ do all year. That’s saying a lot, because we have begun doing sensory-friendly ComedySportz matches for young people on the spectrum (one of our newest endeavors that makes my heart sing); we do camps, classes, and leagues for elementary, middle, and high school students; we do adult classes and team-building; we do corporate events that make stars out of persons within those organizations; etc. But, to me, there is nothing more crucial than a teen or child who, with their family, goes through long, painful, horrible battles against pediatric cancer. If that’s not enough, once these kids lick cancer, they have oftentimes been harmed by the chemicals and radiation their immature and growing bodies endure. There are various effects that many will carry for the rest of their lives. And then there are those, after all that – perhaps once, twice, three, four times – lose their lives. Unconscionable.
When I started participating in St. Baldrick's, I heard that only four percent of national cancer research funding goes toward pediatric cancer. Cancer in children is called “rare” but it’s not. It’s just not as prevalent as in the adult population but that does not make it “rare.” While there are instructive things in adult cancer research that can be used treating pediatric, it’s not the same. We just simply MUST do better for these kids and families.
I sat out the 2011 and 2012 CSz St. Baldrick’s events. For various reasons, I was not a shavee. I finally decided to do it for the first time in 2013. I started my fundraising page, and friends and acquaintances have given so much.
When I got to the CSz Richmond Improv Arena that evening, I immediately felt the electricity. It’s a night where it’s packed. I thought I would feel nervous about getting my head shaved, but instead, I was pumped. I don’t remember how much in donations I had, but that’s what it was all about. The shaving is solidarity with kids who lose their hair undergoing treatment, and my shaving was – and is – the least I can do.
A few years ago, we started having honored guests – families who have fought this battle – come play with us, and that has added an unbelievable spark. Savanna, Campbell, Jack, and Caroline have become personal heroes of mine. Caroline became ill when she did our show, and Savanna, an honored guest from the year before, went back to our “green room” comforting her until Caroline could leave. She knows EXACTLY what Caroline was going through, and I tear up as I write this because of the labor of love from one child to another. That’s what these kids do. Support each other all the time.
I’m so honored to be a part of an organization where the founders – Dave, Christine, Cathy, and Susan – have such loving and giving hearts. I’m blessed to be part of an organization where my CSz teammates – who come from so many backgrounds, life experiences, religions, and creeds – are absolutely all-in on the mission of CSz Richmond and, now, YES Balloon. Dave has shaved his head and raised funds every year. A few years ago, Christine was at St. Baldrick’s and someone shouted, “Shave your head, Christine.” She had, in fact, just had her “hair done” that week and had no intention of shaving. But she said, “If people give $1000, I’ll do it.” She figured that wasn’t going to happen. Ten minutes later, the money was raised and she was on the playing field getting shaved. Guess what? She’s doing it again this year. She looks absolutely beautiful with the noggin bare. We’ve had a number of women shaved, and they are stunning. Two years ago, the entire Nieporte family (Bill, Jeana-Murray, Michelle, and Michael) shaved their heads. I will never forget them for doing that.
Sure, it gets quite drafty up top when the head is first shaved. But that’s all we have to endure. Our hair will grow back, and our bodies have not endured any poisons necessary to kill cancerous cells while unfortunately doing damage to cells we need. The house will be packed, and the atmosphere will be electric. I’m going to have a blast, and I will be absolutely passionate about getting my head shaved and taking steps toward not just curing cancers, but doing so in ways that won’t stunt growing bodies. I will be enthusiastic, and joyfully play the ComedySportz® match that is part of our St. Baldrick’s event. I will marvel at the loyal fans who have done their own St. Baldrick’s pages and raised money to shave at our event.
But I sure wish, hope, and pray we won’t have to do it again next year.