Class of 2015 raises more than $16,000 for childhood cancer

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The Wake Forest PA Class of 2015 hosted a St. Baldrick's Shaving Event on January 11, 2014, at the Fulton Family YMCA in Winston-Salem. First-year students Taylor Norman and Laura Fierke co-organized the event.

Every year, the Katherine Anderson Society (KAS), the PA program's student society, chooses a charity to support. The class of 2015 decided to raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps fund childhood cancer research. Although the KAS traditionally donates 30% of funds raised to their chosen charity, the class of 2015 decided instead to host a St. Baldrick's event and raised more than $16,000.

Kelly Wohler, KAS President, nominated St. Baldrick's as this year's charity. "We've all been affected by childhood cancer in one way or another," Wohler said, "and as future healthcare professionals, we have a great chance to give back to an excellent cause."

St. Baldrick's was founded in 1999 when the organizers discovered a funding gap in cancer research. Only 4% of federal funding for cancer research goes toward childhood cancers. The foundation helps coordinate shaving events across the country where participants are sponsored to shave their heads as a sign of solidarity with the children who lose their hair to cancer.

 "We wanted a way to make an impact in our Winston-Salem community instead of just passing through," said co-organizer Taylor Norman. "I felt personally compelled because a family that I know has a child that was recently diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. St. Baldrick's was a great way that we could involve them and give back to our community."

Two families also participated in the event. The class of 2015's honored kids were Mia, age 3 years, and Savanna, age 14 years, both currently in treatment at Brenner's Children's Hospital. Family members and people from their communities were in attendance and spoke at the event.

Savanna's father shaved his head in solidarity with his daughter. "She's starting to lose her hair, so I'm going to lose mine tonight," he said. Many of the other shavees expressed similar sentiment.

"I shaved my head because I can," co-organizer Laura Fierke said. Fierke is one of the two females who completely shaved their heads. "I shaved my head because it was a choice, and it's so much easier for me to do this than what kids with cancer go through in treatment." 

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The St. Baldrick's Shaving Event was a great success. The class of 2015 raised $13,249 online in advance and an additional $3,531 at the event, and were happy to find that many businesses in Winston-Salem were more than willing to support such a great cause. Twenty-two people were shavees, including 13 first-year PA students, one faculty member and his son, three medical students, and four members of the community.

Assistant Professor David White is the faculty member who shaved his head. Other faculty members were in attendance and helped to make the event a night to remember.  "You've identified a great cause that is making a huge difference," said Assistant Professor Cathy Shull. "It's great to see the class starting something that could begin a tradition."


 

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