By Dane Feldman
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Last November was an iconic month in the history of hair growing―and shaving―efforts for cancer awareness. During a month already known for hosting two worldwide hair growing efforts (Movember and No Shave November), cheerleaders for the Indianapolis Colts made headlines for their hair shaving efforts.
Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano was in the height of his chemotherapy treatments for leukemia at the time. Amidst a wave of “Chuckstrong” banners at games and hashtags on Twitter following the team’s head-shaving, the Colts’ mascot, Blue, tweeted, “ATTENTION @nflcoltscheer: If I raise $10,000 4 leukemia research, will a cheerleader let me shave her head at our next game? #CHUCKSTRONG.”
According to Huffington Post, cheerleader Megan M. responded within the hour saying she would participate.
“With Megan’s help, Blue raised $22,670, according to WTHITV, more than doubling the threshold for the trim,” reports Huffington Post. At the November 25 game, Blue shaved Megan’s head as well as the head of Crystal Ann, another cheerleader.
In truth, the Colts’ efforts are not unusual, just well publicized. Hair growing and shaving efforts for cancer have been an ongoing occurrence for quite some time. Charities sprouted as a response to the loss of hair caused by chemotherapy. According to BreastCancer.org, “Hair loss occurs because chemotherapy targets all rapidly dividing cells―healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Hair follicles… are some of the fastest-growing cells in the body.”
Locks of Love was founded in 1997 by Madonna Coffman looking to receive hair donations for her 4-year-old daughter suffering from hair loss as a result of alopecia, according to the Locks of Love website. Locks of Love quickly became a phenomenon — people have donated to children “in all 50 states and Canada and [Locks of Love] is working towards its goal to help every financially disadvantaged child suffering from long-term hair loss.”
In 1999, the seeds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation were planted. People “[shaved] their heads for donations to raise funds for kids with cancer,” according to their site. In 2002 alone, the group raised over $1 million with “37 head-shaving events,” giving them more than enough momentum to found and their foundation officially began in 2004. Since then, St. Baldrick’s has since raised over $100 million for the cause.
Movember began in Melbourne, Australia and has since raised $299 million USD, according to their website. Movember’s mission is to “[change] the face of men’s health” by spreading awareness regarding testicular and prostate cancer. Men who participate are required to spend the month of November growing a moustache. All proceeds go to the Prostate Cancer and LIVESTRONG foundations.
Similarly, the ever-popular No Shave November — or Noshember — looks to spread awareness by supporting both National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Prostate Cancer Foundation as well as the latter’s Arkansan chapter. People who participate in No Shave November are asked to simply let it all go and to focus on the “shear laziness of being unkempt and rough together” for the duration of November.
Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths follows a system similar to that of Locks of Love. Since Beautiful Lengths began in 2006, “over 400,000 ponytails [have been] donated” to women with cancer by “women, children, and even men.”
It is important to note, however, that not all donations are made easily. For two high school boys looking to support Locks of Love, reaction to their efforts was nothing short of outrageous as well as a true test of their moral values. In October of 2012, Zachary Aufderheide was suspended for growing his hair out because it went against school policy. Under normal circumstances, he would “be happy to maintain it at regulation length,” but his intention was to donate to Locks of Love. The school board denied his request to grow his hair until it reached 10 inches, the length required to donate to Locks of Love.
Like Aufderheide, J.T. Gaskins was also suspended in 2012 for growing his hair for Locks of Love. While Aufderheide was looking to support the children in need and to help them avoid bullying, Gaskins was looking to give back after having gone through pediatric leukemia.
The two have since received an outpouring of support as participants of the continued hair-growing and head-shaving efforts.