Marcos Bretón

Opinion: Shaving head for St. Baldrick’s brings many emotions

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton gets a little touch up after getting his head shaved at the St. Baldrick's Foundation charity drive Monday.
Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton gets a little touch up after getting his head shaved at the St. Baldrick's Foundation charity drive Monday.

As a child of the 1970s, my dream was to have hair like Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin – a long, flowing mane that embodied a cool I never could achieve.

Some of us clung to the idea that our hair was a link to youth, even when the hair in question began to thin.

On Monday, I swapped my remaining hair for something more meaningful. I sat in a barber chair outside of deVere’s Irish Pub in downtown Sacramento with hundreds of others as crowds watched and cheered while we had our hair shaved off our heads in assembly-line fashion.

It was a blur of emotions. You feel nervous, vulnerable, giddy, embarrassed and proud – all at once. Your family is there. Everyone is watching with smiles and tears in their eyes while you go bald. What a beautiful experience.

The tradition of St. Baldrick’s has grown in the Sacramento region for 13 years, each year drawing more people to shave their heads in solidarity with kids who lost their hair through painful and terrifying chemotherapy treatments.

Nationally, St. Baldrick’s is the largest private source of childhood cancer research grants in the United States. Locally, Keaton Raphael Memorial partners with St. Baldrick’s to stage several mass shaving events – including one at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday night. Raphael was an adorable 5-year-old Roseville boy who died in 1998 after a nine-month battle with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that strikes kids 5 years and younger.

KRM has raised $5.5 million locally since partnering with St. Baldrick’s. Much of that money goes to UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As a marketing tool, shaving your head is a forerunner of the “ice bucket challenge,” which went viral last year and raised a ton of money to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. The St. Baldrick’s campaign works because something visceral happens to volunteers and spectators alike.

You see it in the faces of young women, children and high school kids – all of whom sacrifice pieces of their identities in gestures meant to help kids. “It’s an emotional process,” said Tamara Coil, marketing director of KRM.

“Everyone knows it takes a lot, especially for children and women with long hair, to part with it. It’s part of who you are.”

In Sacramento, St. Baldrick’s is a tradition of spring. The object is raising money, but even more profound is the sense of community. It’s hard to feel anything but good will for your fellow baldies.

Suddenly, being cool was less satisfying than the expressions of your children as they rubbed your bald head. All any of us could hope for is that our gestures would mean something to kids whose hair fell out while fighting to stay alive. If you’d like to help, you can go here:

Call The Bee’s Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.

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