VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — On Saturday, Feb. 24 over 200 individuals will be voluntarily shaving their heads to raise money for childhood cancer research.
This event hits close to home for one of its volunteer organizers, Marion Swaim. Her daughter, Sarah, was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2003.
Sarah responded well to her treatment and went into remission. But over six years later, she relapsed at the age of 20 and found little options for a new treatment.
“The drugs she was treated with originally, there had been no new pediatric cancer drugs developed for 20 years,” said Marion. “The drugs were very old and very harsh. They would’ve done major organ damage and would’ve probably needed a heart transplant by the time she was 30.”
Sarah’s luck started to look up after they found out a new, experimental drug call Clofarabine had been developed. It was available for a clinical trial at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter’s.
“The clinical trial was there because of St. Baldrick’s Foundation providing a $50,000 grant every year for their research program,’ said Marion.
The treatment went well for Sarah. She ended up having a stem cell transplant and is now a healthy 28-year-old.
Now, Sarah and her mother Marion dedicate their time volunteering with St. Baldrick’s to help them help others and tell their story.
Marion says childhood cancer doesn’t receive as much funding as you would think. “The government funding of cancer research, which is all numbers driven, only gives four cents of every dollar to childhood cancer research.”
This makes it difficult to disperse funds to patients in need, like Sarah.
“There are 13 different major types of childhood cancers and under those there are dozens of sub-types. So, you’re taking a small amount of research money and trying to spread it across very diverse population,” Marion said. “In Hampton Roads alone there are 70 new cases of children with cancer.”
The grants provided by St. Baldrick’s Foundation aid in direct research projects. They support new oncologists to get them involved in pediatric research and also support hospitals so they can provide critical trials.
Their goal this year is to raise $170,000. The grand celebration is taking place at the Westin Virginia Beach Town Center beginning at 9 a.m. Here’s how you can participate:
- Be a Shavee. There will be more than 20 barbers from Sports Clips, a St. Baldrick’s national partner. Your hair can be donated upon request to Wigs for Kids. You can do it as an individual or join one of almost 30 teams signed up.
- Be a Volunteer. The organization are always open to receiving more helping hands. Whether you want to assist at the kids craft table, raffle, check-in registration, and distribute t-shirts.
- Donate to a Shavee. You can make a financial donation to support childhood cancer research.
This a family friendly event with a photo booth, a kids corner, and a DJ.
“It’s nice to see everyone come together. We have doctors and nurses who assist cancer patients come out and shave their heads. Some of them have their patients help shave their heads. It’s really an uplifting day,” said Marion, who will be helping with the event on Saturday.