Photos by Don Bowers
The annual St. Baldrick’s Day fundraiser and shave-a-thon was a banner event in its 13th year in Avon, raising $6,866 in donations for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – a volunteer-driven charity that funds childhood cancer research grants.
Held for the second year in a row at Turner’s High Moon Bar in Avon, this year’s Saturday afternoon shave-fest attracted waves of hairy attendees who bravely went under the razor to garner much-needed donations, and to make 2019’s St. Baldrick’s one of the most successful – and financially rewarding – in recent memory.
The Turner’s High Moon Bar locale ensured that shavees could enjoy a little liquid courage before heading to the colorful stage, where four volunteer barbers were waiting: Denise Gaskins of Hair by the Sea, Tabitha Rose of Zen Therapy, Chloe Sapecki, and Sarah Allander of Salon Jobell, who was marking her first year as a St. Baldrick’s Barber.
In another unique twist that hadn’t been seen in a few years, 2019’s 20 attendees included three women, who volunteered to shave their heads with a smile. All three ladies generated more than $1,000 in donations through the event, making them the top fundraisers at St. Baldrick’s, as well as the bravest people in the green-infused room.
Christine Herrick Van Atta, a special education teacher at CHSS, had the support of her husband, her teacher colleagues, and the girls’ volleyball team she coaches at the high school before she took the plunge, although – somewhat surprisingly – she didn’t need too much convincing to participate as a shavee.
“I have a lot of family members and friends battling cancer, and this is something I feel like I can do to support them,” she said. “I always said that when I retire, I will shave my head, buy a monkey, and take off on my sailboat… so all I need know is the boat and the monkey.”
Christine’s goal was $1,000, but she ended up generating exactly $1,600 in funds, thanks to a last-minute $50 contribution from longtime participant Warren “Tater” Gaskins.
Grinning throughout, Christine even talked her husband into shaving his head minutes before she headed to the barber’s chair, and after the shave, the couple was still smiling in their now matching styles. “I can now have an extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning,” said the newly-shorn Christine. “Although my head is a little cold right now…”
The other two courageous ladies were a mother and daughter team – Jenny and Elaine Hooper – who shaved their heads in tandem style.
Daughter Elaine had shaved her head before for St Baldrick’s roughly a decade ago, but this time she was coerced into embracing a bald look by her mom.
“[Elaine] said that if I hit $750 in donations, she’d do it too, so this is a two-for-one deal,” said mom Jenny.
“Yes, I opened my big mouth, and here I am,” said her daughter.
Jenny said that it was her daughter’s bravery to go bald a decade ago that inspired her to do it too, as well as a recent lost that motivated her to help the St. Baldrick’s cause. “I work at a real estate company, and I work with someone who lost her daughter to brain cancer when she was just 10-years-old,” said Jenny. “So this is in memory of August Lauren Payne.”
After the close shave, Jenny and Elaine posed for grinning pictures, while Jenny noted how much money she would save on hair products in the immediate future. “I shampooed my hair this morning, and put the shampoo bottle high on the shelf afterwards and said ‘I won’t need this for a while,’” she said.
The event also attracted plenty of local regulars who jokingly refer to the event as their “annual haircut.” Longtime shavee Richard Augustson, who came decked out in a bright green beard for the occasion, had been growing his hair since Thanksgiving, and was grateful for the clean slate.
Turner’s was decked out in St. Patrick’s Day color, and the site had ample room for the crowd of shavees and supporters as the festivities lingered well into the afternoon.
The event’s local roots technically began 16 years ago, when Tina Chandler and her daughter, Maddy, attended the Norfolk-based event while her daughter was undergoing chemotherapy. For several years afterwards, some Avon locals would make the drive up to Norfolk every March to participate, until they decided to simply stage their own event closer to home.
The first St. Baldrick’s in Avon was held at the Avon Surf Shop, with Chloe Sapecki as the event’s lone barber. It eventually moved to the Avon Fire Station as more and more attendees signed up to have their heads shaved clean, and more recently, to its new home at Turner’s.
“We’ve all known people who have had cancer, or we have had to deal with it ourselves,” said Bobby Zink who owns Turner’s High Moon Bar along with his wife, Danielle. “This is a great way for the community to come together and to do something about it, and we were happy we could help.”
Organizer Jenn Augustson, who has been involved in Avon’s St Baldrick’s Day since it was established, said that 2019’s event more than doubled their goal of $3,000, making it one of the most successful shave-fests in years.
“We raised $4,575 online before the event even started,” she said. “We had originally made a goal of $3,000, because we were just short of that last year, but we blew that out of the water.”
“I’m glad we had four barbers this year, too, because we needed them.”
An extra $1,460 extra was made at the event itself from folks walking in with checks or cash, (as well as from sponsorships), and even curious lunch or dinner patrons joined in the spirit – like Seattle couple Merrick and Stephanie who are currently biking from Key West to Nova Scotia, and who stopped in for an impromptu haircut.
Needless to say, Hatteras Island will be a balder, more beautiful place to be in the weeks to come, as chrome domes have a moment as the new trend in island hairstyles – for apparently both men and women.
Multiple people commented on how lovely the ladies looked with their new do’s, (or lack thereof), and considering their casual and generous attitudes before and after the cut, it’s a safe bet that their bravery – as well as the bravery of all of the shavees at St’ Baldrick’s – will inspire more participants in the years to come.
“You know what? It’s just hair, and it will grow back,” said Christine. “This is a wonderful cause, and if I have to shave my head sooner than I expected, and before I retire, then there you go…. Now it’s time to get the sailboat…”
To Help the Cause Without a Clean Shave…
The St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser is still accepting donations for folks who missed the 2019. Visit https://www.stbaldricks.org/events/Avon2019 to help push the total amount of donations to $7,000, and well past the goal.