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Thank you, thank you, thank you. To everyone. To all of the hundreds of people who donated money on the heads of our shavees. To our tireless barbers from Quintana’s and Shawn Paul for putting everyone at ease and working without complaint in such good spirits for so many hours. To Mike Kenney who entertained the kids with juggling and balloon art. To all of my friends (including both my mom and my honey) who volunteered their afternoon to check people in, collect cash and checks (tougher than it sounds), sell baked goods or take more than 1,500 pictures (Dallas was a busy woman!). Thank you to everyone (I have no idea who) who baked those yummy looking treats, which brought in an additional $220. And of course, the biggest and most enthusiastic THANK YOU to every man, woman and child who shaved their head or cut and donated their hair.

As of this moment in time, we have raised $43,101.71. Yup, that’s right: seventy-one cents. I wasn’t kidding when I said every penny counts. And the total continues to rise online. We may reach my original $45,000 goal after all.

That is really something. Really really something to be proud of, for all involved, certainly not just me. And more than anything, everyone should be proud of the very brave souls who climbed into those barber chairs and allowed strangers to shave their heads completely bald. It is not a small thing to do. It is a big thing, even for the men with little hair. Even for the littlest kids who don’t care what they look like. Especially for the women and girls who do. It is a serious and powerful statement to make to the children currently battling cancer. And to all those who love them.

I’m only gonna mange to tell a couple of the stories tonight, so you’ll all have to check back tomorrow. But let’s start with the father-son team who went head-to-head in a heated battle to see who could raise more money.  The younger won (ah, youth always wins, doesn’t it?), by about $80, but together they raised more than $6000. Now that’s a competition we can all support.

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We don’t actually know them all that well, but when asked why they shave, the father simply said, “We do this for Austin.”

And then there was Erica, who emailed me out of the blue a few months ago asking if women could join our event too. “Sure,” I told her, knowing women generate lots of buzz (and donations!). She wasn’t the first or only woman to sign up, but I could tell from the beginning that she was serious about this. She was driven, as I mentioned in an earlier post, by an intense fear that one of her young children might one day have cancer. And like a true hero, not one spurred into action by disaster that’s already struck, she saw this as an opportunity to do something before she was ever impacted. To do something right now. And boy, did she ever. Erica raised more than $3000, taking the coveted first place fundraising spot for our event. And she did it with courage and grace and beauty.

DSC_6828DSC_6947DSC_6971 DSC_7008 DSC_7019 Isn’t that such a great shot?

There were so many more fabulous parts to the day but a picture is worth a thousand words and I have a few hundred pictures, so I’m going to add some more here and then post again tomorrow, including about a mother-daughter team and all the CHUH kids. I’m still working on a public photo gallery on Flickr, but it’s not quite ready. For now, I’m inspired by this image that was posted on the St Baldrick’s Facebook page last week:

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And here are our very own, “Oh my god, I’m actually doing this!” photos:

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And with those slightly stunned, pretty excited and damn proud faces, I leave you. But only until tomorrow, I promise.

In light of the extraordinary fundraising prowess of our more than 70 shavees, I’ve decided to raise our event goal from $35,000 to $40,000.  We are currently at just over $33K and the money keeps rolling in.  I’m convinced that with everyone’s last minute push (plea) for donations coupled with the cash and checks people will bring with them tomorrow and the eventual matching gifts from the workplaces of our donors, we can do this.

To give you a sense of just how successful people are being, my two boys have each raised more than $2,000 and they are only in 4th and 5th place for our event. That means that five people have raised more than $2,000! Another five have raised more than $1,000 and there are a few more pushing the door on the $1,000 mark.

Yesterday, the 14 students from Fairfax School displayed their St Baldrick’s pride with green hair (which was sort of funny considering at least half of them were participating in the school spelling bee!).

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Thank you to everyone for your generosity supporting my Braedan and Austin and all their friends and classmates, year after year, as they shave their heads. We will not stop doing this. And I am so grateful that you continue to stand alongside us as we do.

And now, know anyone who could use a haircut??

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I’m still here . . . just have been ridiculously busy, mostly with school-related stuff.  Too many balls in the air right now, that’s for sure. But anyway, looking ahead to my busy winter season, I invite you all to start thinking about that other month in which childhood cancer is pushed to the forefront of the public conscience . . . March.

I will again be hosting a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event for young people in our community on Sunday, March 10.  I welcome the participation of any and all of you and hope that those kids who shaved last year want to do so again and have inspired their friends and classmates to join them.  I’d been hoping to convince the counselor at Fairfax to adopt St Baldrick’s as our school’s charity for the year.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the entire district has committed yet again to the Pennies for Pasta fundraiser run by The Olive Garden.

Let me vent for a moment about this particular effort, promoted heavily to schools through the restaurant’s marketing team. The monies ultimately go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a worthy cause no doubt. But, despite some valiant searches through GuideStar and Charity Navigator, I can find no reports on exactly how much of the money goes there and how much stays with The Olive Garden. Maybe I’m being cynical and maybe they just hand all the donations over for the greater good, but the very name Pennies for Pasta bothers me. The idea is that students bring in their loose change (pennies) and the class who raises the most money wins a catered lunch by the restaurant (pasta). Of course, the prospect of sitting down with table clothes and real silverware in the classroom is exciting for kids and everyone likes a little motivation. But it also teaches kids that you only give when you get something in return.

One of the things I love about St Baldrick’s — and that I think proves meaningful to young and old alike — is that there are no prizes. Sure, you get a t-shirt and a button, but that’s not the same thing (and those serve to promote awareness not just of the organization but, more importantly, of childhood cancer).  Instead, the children who participate in these events learn that no matter how young they are, they have the power to make a true difference.  They can sacrifice in ways that (some of) the grown-ups around them are unwilling to do. That’s quite a powerful realization: I can change the world, I have impact. Not because I found some spare change in my couch cushions and won a prize, but because I gave something real, a piece of myself, and expected nothing in return.

Of course, the truth is that these kids get a lot in return and for good reason. They feel like they’re part of something important . . . because they are. They’re celebrated in their homes and schools and local media for their bravery . . . which they display in all its glory. They’re praised by their teachers and classmates and friends and families as heroes . . . because they are.  No noodles necessary.

 

There’s more, more, more from yesterday.

St. Baldrick’s has hit the $15 million mark and our kids are there to help celebrate. Check out their picture and a sweet little tribute to our sweet little Leah here. It’s impossible to expand the size of photos on their website, so here it is for you:

I forgot to thank the incredible crowd of supporters and cheerleaders who came out on Sunday, sacrificing the glorious weather outside to sit and cheer and laugh and cry for our shavees inside instead. You really helped make it feel special for everyone involved and gave the nervous kids (and adults!) a little boost.  I love these shots:

And people were indeed nervous. The images I posted yesterday showed mostly happy, eager faces, but there were some looks of hesitation, “What have I gotten myself into?” and downright terror. Which should remind us all that courage is not defined by the absence of fear, but by being afraid and still doing what’s right.

But no matter the butterflies in stomachs or hair in eyes, they all got up there and they all followed through.And they were all smiles afterwards:

I’m fairy certain there was not one person in that room, especially not one girl or woman, who didn’t wonder to themselves, “Do I have what it takes? Could I actually do that?”

But fifty people had what it takes and here’s what they accomplished: Our event has raised more than $31,500 as posted online right now.  We have about $2,000 in checks that will be mailed in later this week. And, because it’s not too late to donate, I do believe we will end up breaking $35,000. Which, considering my initial event goal of $10,000, is pretty remarkable.

Some of you have apologized for not raising “enough.” Perhaps this is my fault because I spent considerable time on Sunday congratulating those shavees who had raised really significant amounts, like the first grader who brought in more than $1,300 in all of eight days. But I really and truly mean it when I say that every dollar counts. I’m going to steal something I read recently on St Baldrick’s Facebook page, credited to a shavee in Greensboro, NC: “I know my small contribution may buy the petri dish that holds the cure.” Somebody needs to pay for the little vials and droppers, the gloves and the swabs, heck even the coffee that keeps the researchers awake. So whether you donated $10 or $1,000 and whether you raised $50, $695 or $3,217, you have put us one step closer, one petri dish closer, to a cure for childhood cancer.

And that is what it’s all about.

It was wonderful.

In addition to all the time I’ve spent preparing our final paperwork today, not to mention being distracted by the continuous updates and beautiful photos posted on Facebook, the real reason I haven’t updated yet is that I don’t even quite know where to begin.

I guess I’ll begin with the most obvious words: THANK YOU.

Thank you to absolutely everyone involved in every way. Thank you to my tireless volunteers, the beautiful registrars who welcomed everyone to the event: Becky, Ann (Austin’s old nurse practitioner, who’s not old at all) and my mom. Thank you to the brilliant and trustworthy (and also beautiful) treasurers who collected all your money: Julie, Brenna and Mark.

An extra thank you to Mark for doing every single other thing I asked of him, including not complaining about the state of our house over the past week or so. Instead, he up and mopped the kitchen floor on Friday.  Love that man.

Thank you to the happy faces who sold (and gave away) the delicious treats from our Bake Sale table: Betsy, Luci and Peg, and my mom and dad.  And thanks to the talented bakers — I don’t even know who made all of that food, but everything I saw (or tried!) was fabulous. We made an additional $213 (thanks to people who read my sign):

Thank you to the City of Cleveland Heights, who were gracious and supportive and easy to work with, every step of the way.

Thank you to the endlessly hard-working women of Cut Hair Studio: Laura, Breanna, Mandy and Britney. You worked quickly and tirelessly and put everyone at ease.

Thank you to Dallas, who took all these beautiful pictures and many many more. I will upload them all over the next day or two to a public site so everyone can browse them and even order some if you want. Dallas, as with everything you do, these are just perfect.

Thank you to Balloon Bender Dave, who I never met but I could see him there in the back of the room entertaining the kids. Thank you to Faith and the kids from the MacConmarra Irish dance Academy, who drove all the way from Akron to show their moves and add a bit of Irish flair to our event.

Thank you to the Heights High Singers who got short shrift because we were so engaged in the head-shaving when they arrived that we simply didn’t give them the attention they deserved.

And now … now that I’ve warmed myself up a bit, now it is time to say thank you to the incredible and incredibly brave shavees. Oh, I wish Braedan were still awake because he’s my walking thesaurus and I don’t know how many times I can use the words wonderful and generous and fantastic and brave and, oh what else would he say? Maybe stupendous and stellar and spectacular… Inspiring and uplifting and moving. Heroic. You were all all of those things.

Kid after kid, some seeming much smaller than they had just a few days earlier, walking right up to those seats and hopping up and scrunching their little eyes shut as the hairs began to drift down their faces. They sat still, with very few tears, and let strip after strip of hair fall to the floor. And they were so proud; those bright clear faces, no longer hidden behind shaggy bangs, just beamed. They beamed.

So many parents told me what I already knew, that this was an incredible and rare opportunity for these kids, some as young as three, to truly make a difference, to feel the impact they’re having on the world. Those little kids impacted their world.  That’s a big deal.

It wasn’t just kids, of course. We had several adult shavees, including a couple of fathers who shaved alongside their sons, beautiful images of families doing something big and important side-by-side (which is exactly where we should be when we do things big and important).

There was a sweet older man who stopped me on the way out to say that he’d sent a message to his brother to tell him what he was doing, only to hear back that the brother had already signed up for an event wherever he lives, somewhere like Florida, without knowing!

And, of course, there was Kristi. I knew it would be a big deal, for me and for everyone there, but I can never quite predict which moments are going to get me. This moment got me. As I started to introduce her, right in the beginning because she was afraid to wait around too long and had requested an early slot, I just lost it. I couldn’t even begin. I pulled it together but I’m not even sure what I said, except for leading the crowd in a brief — but I hope rousing — round of “Glaaaa-sier! Glaaa-sier! Glaaaa-sier!”

I know that I did say what a hugely powerful statement she was making to all the young girls gathered there, especially her students. In fourth grade, they’re right at that age when physical appearance starts to take on an enormous and often unfortunate value in their lives. Here was a role model telling them that there are more important things in life than having nice hair:

I know for a fact that at least one of these sweet girls is thinking seriously about shaving her head next year.

Now that was the only moment, nope, not at all. As you know, there was a woman, a fellow Fairfax mom, who shaved her head on Austin’s behalf two years ago. You can read that story here, because that was definitely another St. Baldrick’s high. This year, her three sons, in second, sixth and eighth grades, shaved their heads:

 

As soon as they’d finished, I had turned away from the seats for one brief minute, when Mark came and tapped me on the shoulder, urging me to look back.  There, scrambling into the barber’s chair, all eager and certain, was their little sister, sweet four-year-old Leah, pigtails and all. She had been toying with the idea of shaving over the past two months, one day she’d want to join her big brothers and next door neighbor, the next she’d rather be Rapunzel. But after watching her three heroes and then seeing Kristi shave her own head, well, that did it … Leah was in.

And, if you can believe it, that’s still not all. There was a mother-daughter team who shaved together this year for the second time, in honor of their little cousin, who lost her battle at age two.  Well, it wasn’t until I announced them and mentioned the girl’s name that Ann, the “old” nurse working the Welcome table, realized she had treated that girl. Oh, there were lots of tears and hugs following that one. Peg, the mom, had emailed me a few weeks ago to see if I knew of any children who had survived cancer who might help shave her head. Uuuuhhh, yeah, I think I know one of those:

What a day. There’s still more, including countless more pictures, and links to all the media from yesterday.

But, for right now, all I can say is THANK YOU.

I just keep raising that goal and we just keep meeting it.  We’ve now raised over $23,500 and are well on our way to exceeding our $25,000 event goal. Not only are we doing well, but St. Baldrick’s events across the country are breaking all previous fundraising records. Every time another million dollars is raised, there’s a short piece in the “Head”lines section of the website’s homepage, featuring shavees or researchers or kids affected by cancer. A photo of Braedan and Austin was used to announce the $5 million mark and we’d been planning to take a picture of eleven kids with shaved heads at our event on Sunday the 11th to announce the $11 million mark … but they reached it yesterday! They’re assigning us another number for Sunday, well into the future.

But the kids and I are in the $12 million picture, taken last week at the Bluffton event, which just appeared on the website, a mere 24 hours after the $11 million picture! Austin (in green hat) and I are over to the right and Braedan is hidden right under the number 12. .

Tomorrow is Green Hair Day for the shavees at both boys’ schools, so I’ll be outside spraying away (nothing like breathing in hairspray fumes first thing in the morning).  It’s a nice way to raise awareness of childhood cancer and St. Baldrick’s among the staff, students and families, as well as a chance to celebrate the bravery and generosity of so many young people. The kids have really taken this and run with it. I think we parents all struggle with finding the right opportunities to engage our kids in meaningful giving.  I know I’ve tried to involve the boys in charitable endeavors, especially during the holiday season, but they’re often kept so separate from the actual beneficiaries of their kindness that it loses some of its impact. Participating in St. Baldrick’s gives them a chance to really DO something tangible and visible, to make a true difference in a way they can feel and understand.

Not to mention, the events are fun! I’m so looking forward to both Sunday and the AJ Rocco’s event the following week (and, of course, I’m looking forward to Monday when it’s all over and all I have to do is write thank you notes and mail in our checks!). But for now, we’ve got three days of nonstop St. Baldrick’s: Tomorrow morning, I’ll go in and talk to the three second grade classes about childhood cancer (I’ll use my old weeds in the garden analogy), highlighting the impressive engagement of eight of Braedan’s peers. Then in the afternoon, Austin and I will go down to Rainbow, where the doctors and nurses who usually shave at AJ Rocco’s will be shaving instead with the young patients as their audience.  That one should be moving, to say the least. Then Saturday morning is the pancake breakfast at my nephew Van’s day care. Have any of you seen that enormous sign out in front of First Baptist on Fairmount and Eaton? I came across it on a run the other day and was stopped in my tracks by those three gorgeous faces, who look nothing like my current shaggy little beasts.  And then, of course, Sunday.

And then, … rest? Relaxation?  Nah, there’s always something else coming down the pipeline …

Do these kids need a haircut or what?

Braedan complained that it’s hard for him to read at school because his bangs cover his eyes! And yet, they’ve been refusing haircuts for months in anticipation of next week’s big shave. But now we’re getting closer and that “free” haircut will be theirs in just six days.

Our event currently has 45 shavees, including eleven students and one (female!) teacher from Fairfax School and nine preschoolers from St. Paul’s.  We’ve raised more than $19,000 and I keep slowly upping our goal, now set at $22,000. I am very confident we will reach it.

Please know that you are all welcome to attend and cheer on our brave young (and not so young) shavees. You are also welcome to make large (and not so large) donations on their behalf. If you really want to feel like you’re doing something but aren’t quite willing to go under the razor, the event will have a Bake Sale with all proceeds going to St Baldrick’s so you’re more than welcome to bake shamrock cookies or green rice krispie treats or whatever your specialty.

Find us at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, buried under mounds of hair, this Sunday, March 11 from 1 to 4. Shaving will begin by 1:20 and four shavees will be shorn at once. We have a balloon twister coming from 1:15 to 2, dancers from the MacConmara Academy of Irish Dance from 2 to 2:30 (and then sticking around to teach their moves) and the award-winning men’s acapella group, the Heights Barbershoppers, from 3 to 3:30. And, if you find yourself so moved, you can sign up to shave then and there!

 

I figured we better put all this media attention and celebrity to good use.  After years of bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t a good alternative to the very adult event at AJ Rocco’s, I’ve decided to host a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event specifically aimed at kids and teens.

Mayor Kelly has graciously and enthusiastically offered us the use of the Cleveland Heights Community Center on the afternoon of Sunday, March 11, one week prior to the big event downtown. St. Baldrick’s provides a huge amount of support but, in order for this to be a success, I need YOU.

Here’s the scoop: I need two people who would like to serve as Treasurers. I have a document I can email to you if you’re interested that lays out all your responsibilities.  Almost everything can be done from your home computer leading up to the event and then you’d be responsible for collecting any cash or check donations on the day of the event.  (People are strongly encouraged to donate online prior to the event itself, which eases up the burden on the Treasurers and is the most efficient and cost-effective for St Baldrick’s.)  You would need to complete an FBI background check, but it’s all done online and is a piece of cake (honestly, you just enter in your birth date and social, no fingerprints or anything). I also need a Registrar, who would be responsible for registering shavees prior to and on the day of the event (but I will help out enormously in that regard). Whoever takes that job also needs a background check. The lovely ladies from Cut Studio on Lee have agreed to serve as volunteer head-shavers, so you know you’ll be in good hands.

If you are interested in either of the above roles or just in helping out in general, please let me know and I’ll forward you all the necessary materials. St Baldrick’s has been running these events for twelve years now and they make the process as easy as possible.  I’m sure there will be lots of little jobs in the days leading up to it, including things like baking cookies or buying bottled water. If you have any fabulous ideas about how to make this a fun family-friendly event, I welcome them.  I’m going to reach out to Flower the Clown to see if he’ll donate his time to make balloon animals for the kids (unless someone knows him well and wants to take this on).

I also have letters ready to go out to all the public, private and parochial schools in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and University Heights.  Children and teens from anywhere in Greater Cleveland are welcome, but I’m starting with a manageable area where I have lots of natural contacts.  If you want a letter to give to your school counselor or PTA or anyone else you think might be good at rounding up shavees, leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll forward you a copy.

And of course, the most critical component of the day: we need SHAVEES. We need brave young souls willing to go bald to stand in solidarity with all the children who lose their hair during treatment. I know it is a big commitment (one I am shying away from myself), but kids, and especially teenage boys, are the perfect participants (they’re so much less vain, you know). Feel free to form a team, either from your school, sports team, youth group, neighborhood or even family.  Teams can have as few as two members or as many as you can recruit. Shave in honor of a child battling cancer or choose one off the St Baldrick’s website (Austin, of course, is available to be honored by any and all!).   If you’re a grown-up thinking about shaving, please register at the AJ Rocco’s event on the following Saturday, following the St Patrick’s Day Parade downtown.  That is a fabulous event that raises more than $200,000 and I don’t want to draw anyone away from it (we’ll definitely be there).  But if for some reason, you’re unable to attend that one or if you still fall into the “youth” category (or know someone who does), please consider making this huge and public statement on behalf of kids with cancer.

To register, please click here.

As St Baldrick’s says, it takes all of us to conquer kids’ cancer.

A huge thank you to everyone who donated so generously on Breadan’s head and a huge bravo to my big boy who sat bravely sat in that chair and had his hair shaved off “to be like” his little brother.

Despite the cold gray rain, today was a lovely day for the Gallagher family.  In the early afternoon, we drove out to Chagrin Falls for the annual St. Baldrick’s event, with an excited but increasingly nervous boy riding in his booster seat. I gently reminded him that he had offered to do this and that it was okay to be scared. “Being brave,” I told him, “doesn’t mean not being afraid. It means being afraid and doing it anyway.” As we mingled through the crowd and saw friendly faces, including one of his favorite classmates shyly armed with $17 worth of her allowance, Braedan retreated to a table with a plateful of pretzels and quietly declared that he wasn’t going to do it unless Daddy shaved his head for him. Of course, St. Baldrick’s rules allow only lisenced barbers to do the honors, so I was starting to get a little worried that we might have a scene on our hands.

But after about twenty minutes of watching other kids and grown-ups happily get shaved (and one poor tween-age girl who burst into tears afterwards and rushed to the bathroom with her also crying best pal), Braedan’s name was called. And there was no scene at all, except for a happy one. He walked wide-eyed but straight-backed to his spot and listened proudly to the MC introducing him as the event’s lead fund-raiser with just under $4000 (just over counting his friend’s extra $17). Then he took his seat and donned his cape and smiled sheepishly at his audience.

Austin watched from my arms with a big smile on his face as the hair fell in clumps around Braedan’s feet. As far as we could tell, Braedan was the only one there shaving for such a personal reason. Austin got his share of second glances as people realized that this particular child’s head didn’t have any of the fuzz left on the heads of other shavees. This particular child was bald not by choice but by necessity.

Braedan got a heartfelt round of applause amid tears (ours not his) of happiness and sadness and pride and excitement for Wednesday when the whole world will be a little balder. As of today, St. Baldrick’s has almost 28,000 shavees signed up (10% of whom are women) and has raised $10.2 million.   Team Austin is coming in strong with over $14,000 and is still holding a slight lead over the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Team (which, in a way, is also “our team”).

If you’re still planning to give, please consider donating on the head of my sweet little (big) brother Cory, who just yesterday organized an impromptu St. Baldrick’s Day event at his house in Park City, Utah where he’ll shave his head for the third year in a row in honor of Austin (nothing like planning ahead there, Cory). I just visited his page on the St. Baldrick’s site and he put it quite simply: “My nephew has been battling cancer for most of his life so please take a moment to think of him when you donate.”

That’s what this is all about, really. Just taking a moment to think of Austin and the 160,000 other children who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, scared children who have no choice but to be brave, small heroes who never asked for such fame.  Just sitting there quietly and thinking of them, and their parents and brothers and sisters and friends, may not seem like much in light of the battles they face.

But it is.

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