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Sunday was wonderful. Sad, happy, moving, chaotic, upbeat, serious, silly. Wonderful.

Thank you to everyone who helped the day run smoothly, so smoothly, in fact, that we finished shaving 170 heads in just over three hours. All of the volunteers, from the hard working barbers to the kids hawking baked goods, made our event the success that it was.

And it was indeed a success! Right now, we have $100,201 online plus another $3,381 in checks that I mailed today. I struggled a bit with our goal this year, after such a remarkable 2014. I knew that having two sick children in our neighborhood contributed in a big way to the $124K we made last year. From Carolyn’s unprecedented $12,000+ shave to the impressive showing at Roxboro Middle School, we would have been hard-pressed to match those incredible earnings. But still, I went big and set our initial goal at $125,000. About two weeks ago, I was feeling a bit disappointed at our mediocre progress (I’m not sure whether I’m an eternal optimist or just plain greedy because there was nothing mediocre about what we accomplished!), but I began debating what to do: Should I lower our goal? To a more attainable and realistic $100,000? That felt so defeatist. I didn’t want to give up! But we simply weren’t going to raise $125K, even I had to admit that.

I finally settled on $111,000, a nice in-the-middle sum that included my favorite number. And I’m glad I did, because I’m fully confident that we’ll reach it. I’ve followed my participants’ pages and their totals are rising every day, especially those of the women who did the full shave. No doubt, they’ve gotten enough stares and questions and shocked responses (“You really did it!”) that they’ve garnered additional donations. All of that, plus the couple thousand we should make from the Dewey’s Pizza School benefit in June and I think we’ll be there.

But once we’re in that room, putting the “community” in Community Center, the money matters less and less. Whether you raised $50 or $3,000, every one of you who set foot on that stage made a powerful statement. To sick children, you said, “I stand with you. You are not alone.” To your peers, you said, “I can see outside of myself. There are things more important than how I look.” To the world, you said, “I am willing to sacrifice on behalf of others, even others I don’t know. I can make a difference. You can too.”

Everyone in that room heard you. Everyone was moved by your generosity, your kindness, and your courage. We all watched our children, the little people who are supposed to look up to us, do things we might not be brave enough to do (I’m certainly not). And we watched our own peers do the very same things. We witnessed people growing closer, mother and daughter teams shaving, fathers and sons, brothers and cousins and classmates and friends doing something big, side by side. Which is the only way we should ever be when we do something big.

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I saw three children, two boys and a girl, pay tribute to their father in the way that he would have chosen had he had the chance. They climbed on a stage and sat with their friends and schoolmates to make the world a better place. And then they went to his funeral. It’s not the way the childhood should work, there’s no doubt about that. It’s far, far from fair. But they did it and it made them each smile. At least a little.

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I watched a beautiful young woman shave her head in memory of her mother, with tears streaming down her face. And another young woman, with full pregnant belly, making the world a little safer for her unborn child. I watched a six-year old girl and her mother holding hands with the clippers buzzing above their heads, their eyes on each other, their hearts with their lost friend.

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And the boys. I know I spend a lot of time highlighting the girls and the women, but this is a big deal for the boys too. It requires courage and a willingness to stand up and truly be seen, stripped of that thing that makes you simultaneously stand out and blend in. One, who’s shaved with us since the beginning, said that he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue this year now that he’s in middle school. Looks matter to the fellas too, you know. But then (and I quote), “I thought that this might save my future children from having cancer, and I never looked back.”

And that’s why we do this. So that not one single one of those kids who joined us on Sunday, not one 4-year old or one 15-year old, has to hear the words, “Your child has cancer.” And that they certainly never, ever have to hear the words, “There’s nothing else we can do.”

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A couple of times on Sunday, I referred to people’s inner beauty, as in, “These girls are showing us what it means to be beautiful on the inside,” implying, of course, that they were no longer beautiful on the outside.  But I was all wrong.

They are indeed beautiful on the outside. I just needed my own definition of beauty challenged by them. By you. All of you.

Sunday was full of beauty; it was all around us.

This is the beauty of family: Father and son working together to save one of their own (and remembering to have fun in the process).

And this is the beauty of family: A father shaving in solidarity with his son, whose bald head took some getting used to.

This is the beauty of small people doing big things:

This is multiple generations of beauty: grandmother and granddaughter watching the mother shave her head.

Contemplation can be beautiful:
Courage can be beautiful:
And pride can be beautiful:
Beauty is young:
And old (relatively speaking, at least!):
And male:
And female:
And this is the beauty of friendship:

If you want a few more examples of beauty, check out the first wave of photos here. More to come shortly.

Pride gets a bad rap. You know, being one of the seven deadly sins and all. I don’t really get it (I’m not anti-lust either, but we don’t need to go there). I mean, I see how pride can be a negative, if you’re excessively proud without good reason, if you’re proud of the wrong things (your looks, your wealth, your power). But I also see pride as an appropriate reward for doing what’s right and as a motivator to do what’s right again.

Those kids — and adults — who shaved their heads last week were proud of themselves. Deservedly so. They should feel pride; they earned it. Their pride will be one of the reasons they come back and do this again next year. Or it will spur them on to take other forms of positive action in the world.

I felt proud when Braedan told me I “do great things.” It didn’t make me want to sit back and rest on my laurels; it made me want to do more great things, if for no other reason than to show my children the impact they can have on the world.

Pride is beautiful too; especially when it shines innocently on the face of a child who has just discovered an empowered sense of self or on a parent who has watched their baby do something big and wonderful.  Just look at these:

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Here’s another boy who should be mighty proud of himself. Spencer signed up a mere ten days before the event and managed to raise $1,180 without a single donation over $100. Fifty-three different people contributed on his head. Fifty-three! What an incredible show of support that is. (And what a lot of Thank You notes he has to write!)

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And then there’s this guy, probably the proudest of the bunch. And with good reason. In the four years that Braedan has shaved his head in solidarity with his brother, he has raised an incredibly impressive $13,153 for the St Baldrick’s Foundation. Ponder that for a moment. $13,153, . . . from a child. No wonder he looks like this:

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Even the smallest among us can feel pride. One of my favorite St. Baldrick’s moments this year happened two days after the event, when I received a surprising text from my sister-in-law. My nephew Hill, who was still two on Sunday but has since turned three, announced at the dinner table Tuesday night that he wanted to shave his head too, like his big brother and cousins. Up went the family, straight to the bathroom for the clippers, and what emerged is our youngest-ever (and plenty proud) shavee:

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And here’s another thing to be proud of. For every single person who shaved their head or every single person who donated a few bucks, this is for you:

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And moments like this:

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So hold you heads high and be proud. You deserve it.

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.

Austin has a Witness t-shirt. Long-sleeved, black with the Nike swoosh and those stark white capital letters. He’ll keep wearing it. He’s a witness after all. As are we all.

I’ve witnessed greatness and heroism and bravery many times over. Every time a teacher stays late to help that struggling child. Every time a nurse cries with a family. Every time a doctor takes a middle of the night call from scared parents. Every time someone gives a little more than they can afford. Every time someone makes the right choice instead of the easy choice.

I saw it when my lifelong friend lost his leg from the knee down and, instead of giving up and sitting in front of the TV, he became a triathlete. I see it every day when Austin wakes up and, even though he has a thousand reasons to hate the world and another thousand to fear the world, he chooses to love it instead.

I witness them everyday: Small bits of greatness. Quiet acts of heroism. Ordinary miracles. And you know what? So do you.

Let’s celebrate that.

I have a few suggestions for replacement images.

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.

Less than a week until St. Patrick’s Day — that holiday devoted to green beer, shamrocks and bald heads.  Team Austin is now nine shavees strong and, as of this posting, has raised more money than any other team in Cleveland. We’ve just increased our team goal to $15,000 and Braedan’s individual goal to $3,500, having surpassed numerous less ambitious goals.

A huge warm thank you to everyone who has so generously donated so far. Braedan is extremely proud of himself and duly impressed by the sum of money his head shaving has generated. And it’s not too late! You can continue to wow him with your support through the rest of the week and beyond by visiting his St. Baldrick’s page here.

As for the event logistics, Braedan will shave his head this Sunday at 2pm at the Chagrin Falls Township Hall. This is the family-friendly alternative to the downtown event next Wednesday. Austin had labs this morning and was cleared to attend with us, which I am very pleased about. Feel free to bring your kids out and cheer on my brave boy if you’re free.

Then on St. Patrick’s Day, Mark and I will go to A.J.Rocco’s for the “adult” version of the head-shaving.  It’s not quite as racy as that sentence makes it sound but does involve considerable amounts of Irish ale. It’s a great event and we’d love for as many of you as possible to join us. The barbers start shaving at 3, following the end of the parade, and it lasts for a few hours. We usually head out for a bite to eat afterward at the Winking Lizard across the street.

It’s quite impressive to see the number of bald heads (usually spray-painted green) in the crowds milling about. They don’t all know us, those brave shavees, but they are doing this for us nonetheless.  And that’s really something.

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