This was nervousness. Hardcore nervousness.
“It wasn’t even butterflies in my stomach,” Rowan junior Courtney VanLeuvan says. “It was jumping monkeys.”
Publicly shaving your head—especially when you are a female with long, beautiful locks—is no joke.
But when VanLeuvan walked onto the stage of Rowan’s Chamberlain Student Center with three other fearless females, when she saw the love and support from classmates and family members who had squeezed into every inch of floor and balcony space in the Pit to cheer them on, when the barber’s cape was secured ceremoniously around her neck, her nervousness gave way to pride…and a true sense of purpose.
After all, Rowan’s third annual St. Baldrick’s Day event, which included 54 students—49 men, five women—publicly shaving their heads, had raised a phenomenal $20,500 for pediatric cancer research.
To view the 2013 St. Baldrick's Day video, visit the Rowan YouTube page.
So what’s a few bald heads between Rowan friends?
“These ladies,” graduate coordinator of student activities Lauren Thompson gushed as the razors began buzzing, “have raised more than $6,000—just among themselves—to fight childhood cancer. Let them feel the love.”
That was no problem for the St. Baldrick’s Day crowd. The women who took the stage for the final, emotional, public shaving of the evening were clearly rock stars in the eyes of their supporters. Van Leuvan, Rebekah Russell, Katie Cesario and Janille Olivo all watched their long locks flurry to the ground. Theater arts major Christina Higgins, the other female shavee, had her head shaved earlier in the evening.
“You’re beautiful!” male and female students shouted as the women gathered up their pony tails, all of which were donated to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair due to medical problems.
Making a statement
Many of the St. Baldrick’s participants shaved their heads in tribute to family members or friends who have battled cancer. The female shavees had those goals—and a few more.
They wanted to make a public statement about beauty, about confidence, about courage. Kids with cancer, they note, don’t have any choice when they lose their hair due to treatments.
“I’m trying to make a statement and illustrate the point that hair is not beauty. It doesn’t define who we are and it certainly doesn’t define our beauty,” says Russell, an art major whose family traveled from Cary, N.C. to watch her shave her mane of red ringlets.
“As women, we’re so attached to our hair. We think that makes us who we are. But it doesn’t,” says VanLeuvan.
Russell raised $2,300 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, while Cesario, a sophomore history and education major, raised $1,000. Olivo, a junior liberal studies major, raised $2,070 and Van Leuvan raised more than $800.
Clinical mental health counseling student James “Bubba” Castorina was the top male fundraiser at $1,070. He asked his barber to carve out “$20K” in the back of his head in celebration of Rowan students reaching their goal. As they have for the past three years, barbers from Glassboro’s Hair To There volunteered their services for the evening.
Rowan’s Student University Programmers (SUP) was the event sponsor. Cesario serves as director of signature events for SUP and spent the evening coordinating the event before taking her turn in the barber’s chair.
Remarkably, since 2011, Rowan students have raised more than $50,500 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
The support from the St. Baldrick’s Day crowd was exhilarating, Van Leuvan says.
“Until I got onto the stage, I didn’t realize how many people were there. We had students from all majors at the university standing together, side by side.
“This event gave us a chance to sit back and see that we’re a community and a family at Rowan. It was so great—so emotional—to see the support, especially from students,” says Van Leuvan.
“I will be talking about this experience for the rest of my life.”