Making a Difference Through St. Baldrick’s

Kai Blankenship, Media Chief

   I first shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s in 2014 when I was in third grade. My teacher had talked about cancer in class and how it affects kids differently than adults. I went home that day deciding that I would shave my head in solidarity. My mom was very confused at my sudden determination to cut off my 13 inches of hair on a random weekday. We talked about it and she decided to do some research before reaching for the razor. Then she found St. Baldrick’s.

   St. Baldrick’s is a foundation that funds childhood cancer research. Cancer treatments affect kids differently than adults. Even if children are able to beat cancer, the treatments often leave their bodies susceptible to other diseases or ailments. St. Baldrick’s hopes to help create cancer treatments that cater specifically to children and avoid permanent damage to other parts of their bodies.

   Once we found St. Baldrick’s, we hit the ground running. My sister and a few of my friends decided to do it with me. We fundraised, mostly through my mom’s facebook. We were met with overwhelming support from friends, family, and even strangers. The first year we raised $5,456.

   The second year was pretty similar. My hair wasn’t nearly as long, but I hadn’t gotten a haircut all year so it wasn’t still super short either. Some of my friends continued to shave with me and my community continued to support me. I raised $2,850 that year. 

   This went on throughout elementary and middle school. I was always shocked by the kindness of those around me. From 2016 to 2020 we raised nearly $3,000 a year. Everyone once in a while my mom would ask me if I wanted to do something else instead of shaving my head every year. She would say that I didn’t need to always be the bald kid. I decided, though, that as long as kids were going bald against their will due to a debilitating disease, shaving my head once a year was the least I could do.

   My sophomore year in high school was when I decided to make a change. I wanted to do something different and try to bring our fundraising to the next level. I chose to let the person who pushed me over my goal to pick the color that I dyed my hair before I shaved it. I figured it would be a fun twist and my hair wasn’t long enough to donate so I might as well use it to raise more awareness for the cause. The family who pushed me over my goal chose “rainbow” as the color, which seemed insanely difficult to pull off.

   However, the kindness of the community came through once again. Kyle, a hair stylist at Salon Sein, donated his time and resources to dye my hair for free. It took eight hours and a lot of bleach and hair dye but he did it. I even ended up shaving my head at the salon that year because the in-person Lake Central event had been canceled due to COVID-19.

   Since then I’ve continued to dye my hair for St. Baldrick’s, but changed the way in which the color is chosen. My martial arts studio, Northwest Indiana Martial Arts Academy, has hosted a Kick-a-thon to raise money, with the kid who raises the most choosing my hair color. Over the course of two years, NWIMAA has raised over $18,000 for St. Baldrick’s. This astounding number comes from the support of so many kind families as well as the generosity of the employees and business owner, Adam Theros. 

   Shipwreck Bar and Grill also hosted a “Rock the Bald X” event this year to celebrate me shaving my head for ten years. This event, which featured music, raffles, food, games and more raised $2,200 for St. Baldrick’s.

   Overall, my current lifetime funds raised for St. Baldrick’s is $54,052. If it wasn’t for those in my community who have constantly donated, I would never be able to get close to that number. I cannot express how thankful I am that I’ve had such a strong support system ever since I could remember. I was a third grader who wanted to make a difference in the world and thanks to everyone around me, I was able to make that happen.