Emily and Paige following my third blog post, The Ripple Effect…Children are the innocents in this world. We, as leaders, can learn so much from their example.
There are so many incredible moments related to my volunteer work through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. So many of these moments have impacted my life through the years. One of these extraordinary moments took place when Carrie, a high school classmate, reached out to me.
“My daughter Paige was inspired by you! She wants to shave her head. She is almost 10 years old.” Carrie said.
I remember thinking, Wow! This is incredible! How can I support Paige? I surprised Paige by flying into Texas to watch her first shave.
“I am so proud of you,” I said. “You are going to inspire so many people of all ages by your selfless act” I continued. “If you decided to shave a second time, I would like to invite you and your family to come shave with me in Virginia.” Paige took me up on my offer.
When Paige and I attended the event in Virginia, the Ringham family was there to tell Emily’s story. The family received devasting news when Emily was 10 years old. Her mom, Lisa, began telling Emily’s story.
“Our family was on vacation and we were having a wonderful time. We all went to bed to rest from an exciting day and the following morning, we had trouble waking Emily. We were scared and immediately called 911. What followed would change our family forever.” At this point, those of us in the audience were on the edge of our seats. I remember thinking, Oh my gosh! What happened to Emily?
“Emily was placed on a stretcher and placed in a CareFlight helicopter,” she continued. “The hospital was hours away and we did not know if Emily would still be with us when we arrived at the hospital.” The air was filled with emotion. Many in the audience were wiping tears streaming from their eyes.
“When we arrived, our 10-year old Emily, was alive and being put through loads of exams and diagnostic tests.” “Our worst fears were confirmed. Emily had a brain tumor and needed emergency surgery to save her life,” Lisa said. The audience gasped!
When Paige and I met Emily’s family, Emily and Paige had an instant connection. They were the same age and had much in common. The impact Emily’s story and Paige’s selfless act, coupled with me inspiring Paige to shave at such an early age, had an enormous emotional impact on firefighters in attendance to shave in solidarity of children with cancer.
“We want to invite you girls and your families back to the fire house. We want to cook your favorite meal. What would you like for dinner?” said the Fire Chief.
Both girls looked at each other and said, “Macaroni and Cheese!” That evening, five of us joined the firefighters and enjoyed their cooking, their stories, and feeling the love and compassion for these girls.
Emily’s story of survival, Paige’s selfless act, and meeting so many families across America keeps me motivated to continue raising money and awareness to find a cure for children’s cancer. Organizers from across the country have reached out to me via Facebook after meeting me at an event or following me on social media via the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. They have invited me to come shave at their events. This has afforded me an incredible opportunity to meet others passionate about this cause. I continue to meet families coping with the loss of their children to cancer, children currently fighting to survive, as well as children deemed “survivors.”
When I shaved in October 2019, I had shaved in six different states and raised almost $25,000. I cannot count the number of incredible children, families, St. Baldrick’s Foundation staff, as well as event organizers and other volunteers I have met since 2005. Every single person that has touched my life through these incredible events has affected me in such a profound way and has kept me humble. People often ask, “Why do you continue to shave and not just donate money to the cause?”
My response is, “I continue to shave because being bald is a bold statement of solidarity with children that lose their hair due to chemotherapy. Losing their hair is not a choice. I know my hair will grow back and I am honored to shave in their honor. Being bald affords me the opportunity to talk about the lack of childhood cancer funding and educate people on the low overhead costs of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and encourage them to get involved.” I am a firm believer in paying it forward and continue to do so through selfless acts of kindness, such as shaving my head bald.