February 27, 2012

Avon woman giving up a head of hair for kids with cancer


Ladies, how much money would it take for you to shave your head? 

Would you do it for $5,000? $10,000? $20,000 plus the subsequent cost of hats? 

Does the amount change if a couple more factors are thrown in, such as the shaving itself will be a public spectacle, complete with potentially embarrassing photos splattered all over the Internet? 

And what if you don’t get to keep a dime?

Well, Mandy Haage Fuller is going under the razor for the bargain basement price of $2,000, all of which will be donated to St. Baldrick’s Day. 

Her 20 inches of hair will be donated as well, to Locks of Love, a national organization that creates wigs for children with cancer and other diseases that result in hair loss.

“To donate hair, you need to cut 10 inches, and it takes about three or four ‘heads’ to make a wig,” says Mandy. “So my hair will be about half of a wig – a good start.” 

St. Baldrick’s Day was started in 2000 to recognize and generate donations for children with cancer. The shaved heads serve as a reminder of children who have had to undergo chemotherapy and have lost all of their hair. Starting as an informal conversation between friends, the event quickly grew in its short lifespan and is now celebrated annually in 18 different countries.

Locally, the event started very much the same way. Jennifer Harmon, owner of Avon Surf Shop, first heard of St. Baldrick’s after a chat with her friends, Ray and Tina Chandler, and Warren “Tater” Gaskins III, who had made a trek to Norfolk to participate in the event, and who has participated locally every year since. 

Now, it has become an annual tradition of sorts for Hatteras Island locals to head to the Avon Fire Station on St. Baldrick’s Day to get their post-winter “haircut,” and shed their grizzled off-season persona for a clean shaven summer look, all while helping a good cause.

But while many of the scruffy local gents end up improving their appearance after participating in St. Baldrick’s, it’s safe to assume that a bald lady might not have quite the same results. 

Not that this fact bothers Mandy in the least.

“Everybody either says to me ‘You’re crazy’ or ‘You’re brave’ – those are the two camps,” says Mandy with a laugh. “But my hair grows really fast, and when I was in high school, I shaved portions of my hair because I was ‘a rocker’ and going through that phase.”
“I think people get too caught up in their hair and how it ties into their identity,” she adds. “I had a couple friends go through breast cancer and lose all of their hair. And I keep thinking that I’m lucky that [my children] Grace and Jack are so healthy. If they weren’t, I would shave my head for them in a heartbeat. So in my mind, some other mommy who is not as lucky as I am will get a wig for her children.”

“And besides,” she says, “it’s only hair.”

Typically, there is usually a participant or two every year who steps up to generate major donations in exchange for going bald. 

In 2009, former Cape Hatteras Elementary School principal Ray Gray shaved his head for an exceptional $900 in donations, and last year, Ginger Wojciechowski raised $1,500 in a matter of minutes, with the help of Frank and Fran’s tackle shop. Cindy Seigel was also able to raise $1,500 through the help of her co-workers at Midgett Realty, and donations for 2011’s event reached the $10,000 range, with more than 60 shavees in attendance.

Mandy’s goal of $2,000 will therefore be one of the biggest donations for one person in recent history, and with only three weeks left until the March 17 event, funds are still needed. 

Mandy has been able to raise $900 so far and is hoping in the short amount of time left that she can make up the difference.

“Outer Beaches Realty gave me $100, and Jomie [Price] from Ketch 55 promised me $100, and my friends and family have donated anywhere from $20 to $100,” she says. “I really would like to meet the goal – if I’m going to shave my head, I might as well generate as much money as possible. And I’m thinking positively. I know I’ll reach it somehow.”

Folks who want to donate to Mandy can do so on her St. Baldrick’s page, http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/502643/2012.  All money raised will go towards research for Children’s Cancers.

And while Mandy’s husband Jamie, who himself has participated in the Avon St. Baldrick’s Day Shave for seven years, might not be completely on board with his wife’s new look, Mandy is unfazed and ready to take the clean-shaven plunge.
“I’m not nervous at all. It’s for a good cause, and I’m happy to do it,” she says. “And I have a plethora of hats.”

(Hatteras Island’s St. Baldrick’s Day event will be on Saturday, March 17, from 3 until 6 p.m. at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. For details and to donate or participate, go to http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/447/2012)

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