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At the end of last week, I was starting to get worried about our head-shaving event this year, feeling like we didn’t have enough shavees, no one was interested, it was a one-time wonder, yada yada yada.  Then I had thirteen new registrations on Friday and Saturday alone.  We are now up to 47 children and adults shaving and 3 girls cutting and donating, which is a few more than we had at this point last year.  It’s still not too late (I did order a few extra participant t-shirts in an optimistic moment), but it’s almost too late so if you’re still signing up, do it today.

So I’m feeling pretty good about our number of people, but the number of dollars raised leaves a little to be desired. Actually, it leaves about twenty thousand to be desired! Last year, not knowing what to expect, I aimed low, with an initial event goal of $15,000. I quickly upped that to $18K, then $20, eventually $30 and finally settled on $35,000, which we surpassed.  This year, I thought I’d save myself the hassle of editing the online goal and started high: $45,000. Well, we are currently at just over $16,000 and Monday I lowered the total to $35,000.  Boo.

So, now I’m gonna lay on the pressure. This is serious business. This is the business of saving lives. Every parent of a child with cancer already knows the ugly truth about how other organizations use images and stories of children to do their fund raising, but give pathetically little to childhood cancer research or treatment. The esteemed American Cancer Society gave a mere 3.7% of its nearly 2 BILLION dollar budget to pediatric cancers in 2011. Now, I get that cancer affects a great many more adults than children and I, of course, support well-funded and rigorous research into all adult cancers. But I will refuse to give the ACS a single dollar until they stop prostituting photos of sick children, all in the name of opening donor wallets. That pisses me off. (Can you tell?)

St Baldrick’s is different. All they do, all they fund, is childhood cancer research. That is what they devote every second and every dollar to. And it’s research that is truly making a difference. We have St Baldrick’s fellows right here at Rainbow, making discoveries and treating kids every day. I’ve given you the stats before: how many kids are diagnosed, how many survive, how many don’t. But think about this for a moment: the treatments that kids receive today, Austin included, are developed with adults in mind. They’re intended for use on adult bodies, which are distinct and unique from the rapidly developing bodies of young people. The chemo agents Austin had pumped into his bloodstream for all those months were never meant to be used in a one-year-old. Or a three-year-old. So, by the time they hit age 30 or 40, 73% of the “lucky ones” will have a chronic health problem as a result of their treatment. And Austin will no doubt be one of the 42% of survivors who will be living with a severe or life-threatening condition. In fact, he already is.

The very medicines we give our children to keep them alive will most likely kill them.

That’s not okay. That’s not just an unfortunate consequence, the price we have to pay for keeping our babies alive. It’s unacceptable. And St. Baldrick’s knows it. And they are working tirelessly to change it.

And guess what? You’re not just an idle bystander, listening helplessly to bad news. You can actually do something. You can save a life. And be a hero. And all you have to do is shell out a few bucks.  It doesn’t even have to be on the heads of my children; they’ve raised more than $1,600 apiece. You can give to some of the lovely and brave children who’ve raised just $15. Or to the female high school senior who’s shaving her head, and who I’m really hoping will hit the thousand dollar mark. Or to the young mom who’s so terrified that her children may someday have cancer that she figured she better do something about it right now. And so she’s doing something about it, right now.

And you can too.

Ready for these? Oh, they’re good ones alright . . .

From a restaurant in New Jersey:


And another in Hawaii:


A friend of my brother’s saw this one in a bar in Denver:



A high school in Chicago:


A different friend in Chicago was obviously in the very same building:


At a Starbucks in Bowling Green:


An ice cream shop in New Jersey:


In Traverse City, Michigan:


This one is just from good ol’ Cleveland, but it was cool because this church had another even bigger one posted out on the road that surprised me one day as I went running by (with no camera):



I had one that was sent to me from New Orleans that I can’t find any more.  And, of course, many people told me they saw them out and about but have no photographic proof (slackers). Thank you for keeping your eye out for us over these past twelve months. It has been such an incredible honor to be the face for so many of this year’s events, especially considering the fact that St. Baldrick’s raised more than $33 million in 2012, a $5M increase over their previous record-breaking 2011. A new poster child will be revealed in January and my boys’ sweet faces will be relegated to some dusty old storage boxes. I am going to ask St. Baldrick’s to send me any extra posters they have so I can use them again in 2013.

So, speaking of St. Baldrick’s 2013, our event page is up and running, with four registered shavees: Braedan and Austin as co-captains of Team Fairfax and two brave women I don’t yet know. It’s not too early for the rest of you to get started: register as a shavee, form a team of kids from your school, club or sports team, and start spreading the word and raising money. I am setting up a special Bobs for Baldrick’s station for women and girls who want to cut and donate their hair.   I’ve been advised that anyone doing that should register as a Volunteer and not a Shavee but then use the message on your personal page to describe what you’re doing to friends, family and potential donors. Let me know if you want more information about that option. I believe the barbers from Quintana’s will be shaving heads and Laura and Shawn Paul from Shawn Paul Salon will be doing the haircuts (so you can trust you’ll get a good one!)

And of course, I’ll need Registrars and Treasures too, the more the merrier, so hit me up if you’re interested. I’m really excited to do this again and am hopeful that we can surpass last year’s fundraising total of $36,146 by at least ten thousand. As importantly, I think we can surpass last year’s shavee total of 49 by about twenty. Join us . . . and be a hero for kids with cancer.

You know I’m not big on religion or “signs” or anything like that, but in moments like these, I inevitably grasp at straws and find meaning everywhere. In songs on the radio, in stories on the news, in typical childlike queries. Sometimes in places I wish I didn’t.

Like yesterday when one of Braedan’s classmates, who knows us, who knows Austin, asked me if Braedan was an only child. Uuuuuummmmm, no.

Or how many times in the past few days, I’ve had to listen to Austin say, “I’m dying.” After racing laps around the house, he gulped big breaths and gasped, “I’m dyin’ here.” Then today, he showed off an enormous paper cut earned crafting a Mother’s Day project at school, and said, “I thought I was gonna die.” Okay, too much hyperbole around here.

Sometimes the messages — though equally random — aren’t necessarily bad, like when I got in the car the other day and there was a story on NPR about St George, the dragon-slayer. They were interviewing people who made pilgrimages to some statue of St George, asking for miracles or thanking him for whatever grace they’d been granted. One grandmother said she’d been visiting every year since her young grandson was cured of some terrible, but unnamed, disease.

We’ve seen a statue of St George before, back on our trip to Maine nearly two years ago. After each day’s outing, as we drove the winding roads back to our neighbors’ farmhouse, we’d pass through the tiny village of St. George, and there, out in front of the fire station, was a huge metal statue of him slaying a dragon. The kids loved that.

And it reminded me of this Story People print, one we don’t even own but that should at least be hanging on Austin’s bedroom wall if not tattooed across his back:

It says (in case you don’t have super microscopic vision): “Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking each morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” Ah, a real hero. Who has to slay dragons each and every day but still wakes up to love the world.

I was thinking about that story as I was out walking last night. As I approached a decision-making intersection, I noticed the sky was threatening rain and almost turned toward home. But I kept on and as I headed toward Horseshoe Lake, the sky in front of me was perfectly blue and the sky behind me held a shining sun while the sky directly over my head was grey and raining. And I thought, “Oh, of course. I have my own personal little rain cloud, following me wherever I go, raining on only me.” And in the midst of feeling sorry for myself, something clicked in my brain, something about the sun behind and the rain overhead. And I looked up ever so slowly, wishing and hoping like my child’s life depended on it.

And there it was:




I hope you can see in that last image that there is not one, but two rainbows. And for the few minutes that it took me to hurry home, all felt right in the world.

I’ll take what I can get.

February 2020
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February 2020
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