Sophomore Ted Rinell, one of the student leaders of the Concordia Haitian Relief Fund, is already tackling a new fundraising project. Rinell is in the process of organizing a St. Baldrick’s Foundation event on Concordia’s campus for next year.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a non-profit charity that raises money for childhood cancer research primarily through head-shaving events. It is the largest volunteer fundraiser for childhood cancer in the world. Volunteers seek sponsorship from their families, friends, and local businesses, and then shave their heads in solidarity with children who lose their hair during chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy works against cancer by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the trademarks of cancer cells. However, other cells in the body also divide rapidly, including cells in the hair follicles, which leads to the side effect of alopecia—hair loss.
Rinell said head shaving is a more active gesture that shows children suffering from cancer that people are there to support them beyond just monetary donations for cancer research.
“The shaving is to kind of represent the struggle that kids are going through when they go through their chemotherapy, when they lose all that hair. Not only are you raising money for a good cause, it’s also helping the kids with their struggle. [We’re] saying, ‘You know what? We don’t have hair either. It’s bad, but we’re here for you. We don’t really understand, but we’re trying to help you with your struggle.’”
Rinell said St. Baldrick’s is different from any other fundraiser on campus because it shows more commitment and passion to have your hair shorn to the scalp.
“It’s a really tough thing to shave all of your hair, especially for girls. Hair’s kind of something women like,” he said with a laugh.
Men do participate in more St. Baldrick’s shave-a-thons than women by a 10:1 ratio (30,000 to 3,000), but women do participate. Rinell said women will often do St. Baldrick’s in conjunction with Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who suffer from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. Locks of Love manufactures their hairpieces from donations of hair at least 10 inches in length.
Lacey Neuman Bissonnette, director of Brown Hall, knows Ted through Brown Hall Council. Rinell pitched his idea for a St. Baldrick’s event at a hall council meeting. Neuman Bissonnette said she probably wouldn’t shave her head, but she would definitely cut her hair and donate it to Locks of Love, in addition to recruiting shavees and donating to the cause.
St. Baldrick’s was organized in 1999 by three Irish-American reinsurance executives: Tim Kenny, John Bender and Enda McDonnell, all from New York City. The founders decided to turn their St. Patrick’s Day party into a benefit for pediatric oncology research by shaving their heads to show solidarity with children undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The name of the foundation is a play on the words—going bald on St. Patrick’s Day led to St. Baldrick’s. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has raised over $66 million for childhood cancer research since 2000. Over 100,000 heads have been shaved in all 50 states and in 24 countries.
Rinell said the nearest St. Baldrick’s event is in Bismarck, N.D. He wants to start an annual St. Baldrick’s event in Fargo-Moorhead because he believes the area has a great hospital system whose cancer ward has children to support.
Rinell wanted to start the St. Baldrick’s event this year, but due to his involvement with the Haiti fundraiser and busy schedule, it won’t happen until next spring.
“Next year, for sure, is definitely going to be a go for St. Baldrick’s on campus,” Rinell said, nodding with enthusiasm.
Rinell’s RA, sophomore Skyler Vilt, said he isn’t surprised Rinell is taking on another fundraising project.
“I have really gotten to know Ted well this year,” he said, “and I know he is committed and passionate, especially about social causes. “
Rinell said he will fill out the paperwork to become an event leader for St. Baldrick’s and to approve the fundraiser with the college so he can run a booth and display advertising. He said he hopes to have all of the preparation completed by January 2011 so participants can begin gathering donations from sponsors for the St. Patrick’s Day shave-a-thon.
Rinell said next year’s event will be open to the Tri-College institutions of Concordia, MSUM, and NDSU, but he eventually wants to expand the event to the entire F-M area so everyone, not just college students, can get involved.
Vilt said he thinks a St. Baldrick’s event is a great idea to get involvement from many different campus organizations and is a unique way for students to come together for a good cause.
Neuman Bissonnette agrees. She said it would be wonderful to see an event like a St. Baldrick’s shave-a-thon on-campus, and thinks a lot of students would participate.
“I think the event itself would be fun for everyone– the people shaving their heads and the people watching,” she said.
Rinell said St. Baldrick’s events are a lot of fun. He has participated in St. Baldrick’s events in his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo., with his brother and friends. He said it was great feeling to sit on a stage next to his friends and see the towels being draped around their necks and the barbers shaving away simultaneously. After the event, Rinell said there is a small get-together to donate the money raised by participants and have food and drinks with fellow shavees.
“It’s really, really fun; a good time,” he said. “Friends will come together usually and shave their heads together. It’s a bonding experience not only for a child with cancer and a shavee, but also shavees and shavees.”
Rinell said the only advice he has for Concordia students about the St. Baldrick’s event is not to be intimidated by the head shaving.
“It’s not that bad,” he said. “Your hair will grow back. Theirs will or will not.”
Marisa Paulson is a senior and the news & features editor of The Concordian, although she still writes when she can. She plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in fall 2011.