March 14, 2005

Cornellian Organizes Charity Shave-a-Thon

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The frigid Ithaca weather demands thick beanies and massive hoods, but Mikhail Shub ’08 has opted for another style: baldness. Making more than a fashion statement, the cancer survivor organized a shave-a-thon at Cornell as part of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation from 1-9 p.m. on Saturday in the Townhouse Community Center.

Founded five years ago, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has already raised $7 million as well as spread to 200 different locations around the United States and Bermuda. Focused on raising funds and awareness for cancer research specifically for children, the foundation takes a different spin on fundraising.

“Just as with events like the March of Dimes where people sponsor you to walk 10 miles, here, people sponsor you to be bald,” Shub said.

Instead of collecting hair to make wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy like most conventional organizations, St. Baldrick’s focuses on shaving heads. Shub himself took part in the unusual event last St. Patrick’s Day.

“I was growing my hair out for Wigs for Kids,” he said, “but it just wasn’t growing fast enough. My history teacher gave me an article about [St Baldrick’s], so I got involved.”

And though the prospect of suffering the cold was a concern, Shub said, “There are kids out there who have three to four months to live and then your hair doesn’t seem that important anymore.”

Normally supposed to be held on St. Patrick’s Day, Shub decided to move the event to this past Saturday to avoid conflict with spring break.

At the Townhouse Community Center this past Saturday, friends of Shub gathered to watch Kara Gulewicz ’08 proudly shave Shub.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever shaved anyone,” Gulewicz said.

Shub winced in pain as Gulewicz said, “Man, this hair doesn’t want to come off!”

As Gulewicz stood shaving and laughing, Shub encouraged Gulewicz to “glide with pride” as he sat gasping and grabbing at his falling hair.

Others came to watch the courageous student start what he hopes becomes a Cornell tradition.

“I’m here because I think it’s very admirable, a bold thing to do,” Courtney Yuhas ’08 said as she enjoyed the scene.

Along with Shub, two other Cornellians joined the crusade to help children with cancer and to make bold statements with their shaved heads. Raising a projected total of approximately $50 to $60 collectively, the three students have ushered in the noble fundraiser. According to the St. Baldrick’s website, “Research is the only hope for these children, and a gift to St. Baldrick’s helps bring an end to childhood cancer because we are determined to shave heads until every child with cancer can be cured.” Aiming to capture the attention of the public and the media to eventually convey the vital need for funds for more specialized cancer research, the organization has become a success. But for Shub, the reasons are more personal.

“I know a few people who didn’t make it and it’s something I have to live with,” he said.

Though he cannot change what has happened in the past, he chooses to fight cancer on behalf of others by “showing a bit of solidarity to the children,” and hoping to give them “what I got and they didn’t,” by raising funds for research.

The number one disease killer of children, cancer constantly reminds survivor Shub of the children undergoing chemotherapy who feel insecure and ashamed and get made fun of by peers, just as he once was. By shaving his head, “I’d feel that they understand that it’s not really a bad thing to lose your hair. It’s a bonding thing with the kids out there.”

The once-again bald Shub hopes that his head will not just be seen for what it is. Instead, he hopes to encourage children with cancer and to make Cornell a campus fully aware and active for the cause. Hopefully, over time this fundraiser will give birth to much more awareness, heart, and naked, noble heads.

Archived article by Emily Gordon
Sun Senior Writer
and Anita Oh
Sun Contributor