April 10, 2006

Students Shave for Cancer

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On Saturday morning, in the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house, Benjamin Starobin ’09 sat stone still in a wooden chair. His eyes, mildly glazed with fear, did not blink as the girl standing behind him flicked on her hair razor. Starobin was about to lose all of his hair; he was also about to raise money for children with cancer.

Starobin participated in St. Baldrick’s Day, a charity event in which sponsors pay individuals to shave their heads. The money they collect goes to fund CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation, which supports CureSearch Children’s Oncology Group. According to the St. Baldrick’s website, the group is “the world’s foremost childhood cancer research organization.”

St. Baldrick’s Day started in 1999, when three reinsurance industry executives decided to transform their annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration into a charitable event. The three executives asked fellow colleagues to join them in shaving their heads in exchange for money donations. The actual shaving took place on St. Patrick’s Day, in the pub in which the colleagues usually spent the holiday.

Mike Shub ’08, who organized Saturday’s event, has been participating in the celebration since he was a senior in high school. Shub’s history teacher read about the festivities in the newspaper, and she challenged her shaggy-haired student to take part in them. Shub had been growing his hair for Locks of Love, but he decided that children need money for research more than they need his hair.

So Shub, who is always up for a dare, took the Staten Island ferry to the city to try out a new hairstyle. As Shub and the friend he took with him waited in the pub, Shub was mainly concerned about he would look without his long locks.

“I was nervous,” Shub said, “I’d never kept my hair below three inches, … this was a huge, drastic change.”

The most drastic change, Shub soon realized, was not merely cosmetic, but temperate. His first reaction to his new haircut was to the loss of warmth that his hair had for so long provided.

“It was very, very cold,” Shub said.

Since that day, Shub has participated in the event annually. When he came to Cornell, he brought his allegiance to the charity with him. As philanthropy chair for his fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Shub ran the event for the last two years through his brotherhood.

The event has particular significance for Shub, who had Leukemia as a young child. He does not remember much of the experience, but he does remember being in and out of the hospital. Shub also remembers the friendships he made with children who shared his condition. Saturday’s event was, in part, a tribute to the ones who were ultimately not as fortunate as he.

“There are a few friends that I met in the hospital that I lost to cancer, so this is also kind of for them,” Shub said.

13 people participated in yesterday’s event, which raised around $1,400. Most of the participants were Shub’s fraternity brothers, but some came from as far away as Syracuse.

Beth VanDeuson, one of these long-distance travelers, was the only girl to partake in the day. VanDeuson nervously smiled through Natalie Portman jokes (Portman recently shaved her head for a role in V for Vendetta) as her best friend, who is a registered cosmetician, put the razor to her shoulder-length brown hair.

“I think it is really cool to be bald and proud,” said VanDeuson before the cut.

Starobin, the first person to be shaved, ultimately had a very carefree reaction to the shave.

“You gotta try everything once,” he said.

Archived article by Lauren Hirsch
Sun Senior Editor