St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser at Children’s: Why I am shaving my head

This is a guest post by Tanya Juarez-Sweeney, Child and Family Services Project Specialist at Children’s, who, along with her husband and son, will be shaving her head during Thursday’s St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving event, hosted at Children’s – Minneapolis.

It was a typical day in Star Studio when someone knocked on the door. That someone was Dr. Kris Ann Schultz, one of Children’s pediatric oncologists. This chance encounter would lead me to the decision to join the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser taking place at Children’s on Thursday, March 29.

“How many women do you have signed up to shave?” a coworker asked.

“None yet. It is harder to get women to sign up,” Dr. Shultz answered.

“I’d shave my head for that cause,” I chimed in.

“If you do that, I’ll donate $50,” my coworker replied

“If you do it, I’ll donate $50 too,” Dr. Schultz added.

And so it began.

I spent a few days thinking the decision through, bouncing it off people and considering their opinions. Amusingly, a few people offered to donate to keep me from shaving. Several people shared their stories of someone they knew who was a patient at Children’s; touching my heart and reaffirming the immense pride I have in the work we do here.

Ultimately it came down to the question “Why wouldn’t I?” Would I look too scary to lead the children’s field trips at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where I volunteer? Would my own children get teased at school about their mother’s new look? What would they think? Exactly. What message would I send my children and the children I volunteer with if I did this? A darn good one, I decided.

As a former Army Staff Sergeant, I believe in leading by example; walking the walk. I’m not only sending a message to the children fighting this disease that I stand by them and support them, I am creating teachable moments for those around these families, and raising money for research to boot; win-win-win.

I have been asked a plethora of questions:

“What do your husband and kids think?” My daughter and son think I will look like a ‘cool punk girl.’ In fact, my son thinks it is so great, he has signed up to shave with me and my daughter donated her hair to Locks of Love.

My husband is also a Children’s employee. He tells me I’ll be “striking” and I know that he loves me in part for the fact that I am not superficial, but I know he’ll miss these crazy locks of hair. How lucky am I that he “gets it.” Not only does he get it, he’s also going to shave with me. What an amazing life partner I have.

 “Are you going to wear a scarf/hat/wig after the shave?” Sure, maybe a hat once in awhile. I like hats. But doesn’t that defeat part of the purpose? I’m raising money for this cause but also sending a message to the hematology/oncology kids I see every day. I care. I stand by you. I admire your strength. And thanks for showing me how to rock this look!

“Do you think you might cry when they shave your head?” If you have looked at any of the photos on the St Baldrick’s website, you are bound to come across some tears. For a few, they may be tears of loss from the attachment they have to their hair. For many I think the tears are symbolic of their support and dedication to this cause.

Will I cry? I’ve thought about this. My head will either be shaved by my co-worker (who will be MC’ing the show as our beloved TV character, The Dude) or by a patient. If a patient does the shaving, I’m pretty sure I’ll shed a few tears.

I’ve been hearing a lot of feedback about how brave I am to shave my head for this cause. But I am not the brave one; the kids who fight this disease are.

Recently, I heard a mother express concern about her 9-year-old daughter returning to school and getting teased by her classmates because she not only has no hair, she also has a large scar from her surgery. This girl touched my heart. Her bravery is bigger than anything I can imagine.

Anytime something unjust happens to a child, it fills me with sadness and helplessness. What can I do? What is in my power? Perhaps there isn’t much I can do. But maybe the smallest thing, like shaving my head, can make a statement that I care. And if it raises money for children’s cancer research in the process, then what a great thing.

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