By Emily Rosman @emilyrosman
St. Bonaventure students are shaving their heads to save lives. This event titled Bald for Bucks was coordinated with Leah Noonan, Program Coordinator of Melissa’s Living Legacy and Teens Living with Cancer out of Rochester.
The sophomore class organized the fundraiser and over 60 people cut their hair or shaved their heads in support of the cause. According to James “JW” Cook, sophomore Student Government member and active participant in the program, the university has currently raised $9,770, but there are more donations coming in.
This program was not established this year at St. Bonaventure; the idea for Bald for Bucks dates back to 2002 in a Lake Shore High School classroom in Buffalo. Anthony George was a history teacher and a concerned brother. His sister Kathy had been suffering from breast cancer since 1998 and after a double mastectomy, chemotherapy treatments and radiation treatments, she had fallen into remission. However, when the cancer returned two years later, it came in the form of a brain tumor.
George did not want to see his sister feel embarrassed because of the attention her bald head drew. At this time, she was 34 and self-conscious about her appearance.
One day in class, George explained his sister’s condition to his students and told them he was going to shave his head. At this time, Bald for Bucks was not even a consideration for him — he was simply doing this to support his sister and give her hope.
His idea reached so many of his students that they suggested they turn his idea into a fundraiser. So began what would become the Bald for Bucks campaign.
That first year, there were 30 people involved and about $3,000-$3,500 was raised. His sister Kathy came to the event and shaved his head for him.
Soon, they started to spread word about the fundraiser to other districts. It continued to grow and as of last year, there were up to 52 schools that participated, raising about $800,000 per year. In total, the program has raised about 3.2 million dollars.
When starting Bald for Bucks, he never imaged it spreading so rapidly. To George, it is not about the money; from the moment he drove his sister to Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo for treatments until today, his hope was that “if cancer patients saw teenage girls and boys shaving their heads in support, that they would have hope.”
He believes that this is not only a great support program, but an educational one as well. It teaches students “there is more to life than just taking care of yourself.”
Kathy passed away at age 36 from breast cancer. Lake Shore High School holds their event in March in her honor and continues to raise about $40,000 a year for the cause.
St. Bonaventure is one of the few universities that have participated in this event. George believes this is because the students are very loyal to not only each other but also their university.
When speaking with Lawrence “LB” Hayes, a sophomore Student Government member and active participant in this program, he stated, “It was amazing to see all of the support from the Bonaventure community, as well as the Olean and Allegany communities.” He further mentioned that on campus clubs such as the Bonawire, Bonacoustics and the Laugh Pack did a fantastic job coming together to help support the event in their own unique ways.
As soon as Hayes heard about the program, he knew he wanted to get involved. He believes that people often do not realize that there are teenagers and young adults suffering from cancer every day and that we can support them.
When asked why he shaved his head rather than just receive a haircut, he stated that he felt it “necessary to raise awareness and show people [he] supports those living with cancer.”
It is for this reason that Anthony George still continues to host presentations at schools to promote Bald for Bucks, hoping to share his support to those suffering with cancer while keeping the memory of his sister alive.