Fighting Kid’s Cancer with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation
What’s a girl with a head full of purple hair to do when she’s fiercely passionate about fighting children’s cancer with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation? Well, for this girl with purple hair – she signs up to shave it all off. Yep, you read that right. This time, next year, I’ll be bald.
This promise has been a long time coming — made back in 2012, weeks before purple dye ever thought to touch my head for the very first time. I had just completed photographing my second St. Baldrick’s event on Florida’s Space Coast, when I walked up to our event organizer and made the proclamation, “My hair is yours.” His eyes lit up – he still had clippers at the ready – “No, no. Not THIS year….the year after I’m married.” He smiled and accepted the agreement – neither of us knew how long this journey might take.
Five years and 11 months later, Sean proposed. So, it seems, the countdown is on for me to go bald and I can’t tell you how ready I am to be amongst those who help our kids realize that bald is beautiful while continuing to fund the life-saving research they need.
I started with St. Baldrick’s in 2011 – just a kid with her camera off to photograph a charity event. That day changed my life. In 2012, the promise was made, and in 2013 we started a St. Baldrick’s team – Team Live Out Loud – in memory of my younger sister, Kellie, who passed away unexpectedly in 2004 at 18 from unknown causes. Knowing that level of loss, my family has been a force in giving back – especially to organizations that help kids live long, healthy lives with their families.
My dad and Sean both signed up on the spot to go bald, and our tiny team has gone on to raise $27,000+ in five years for children’s cancer research. I love that we’re in this fight together, and that we get to carry Kellie’s legacy on in a way that I know she’d be proud.
2017 was the year of the knight for me! Those who’ve been with St. Baldrick’s for seven years are knighted by the foundation for their dedication to conquering kid’s cancer. Being a Knight of the BALD table is an incredible honor. And as I looked out over the crowd, I couldn’t help but think back on the past seven years — on what this community has accomplished in those years together.
Our event has raised over $1.5 MILLION dollars for children’s cancer research and we’ve often been in the Top 10 of St. Baldrick’s events worldwide. That’s proof of what can be done when we all come together. It’s proof that when we say “every dollar counts” – we mean it. It’s proof that we can turn something as heartbreaking as kid’s cancer into hope – that, together, we can actually be the change we wish to seek in this crazy world.
So, imagine how excited I was when I stumbled upon an Instagram post made by a fellow Cisconian that said there was a St. Baldrick’s event being planned this year at Cisco’s RTP campus. I reached out immediately to see how I could help.
Andres Marquez and Andrea Roach welcomed me with arms wide open (as true Cisconians do, of course!) and we got to work discussing what they imagined for the RTP event and where we’d like to take St. Baldrick’s events at Cisco in the future.
It was here in this meeting that I learned Andrea’s cousin, Aaron, battled a rare form of bone cancer, Osteosarcoma. At the age of 14, he had a majority of his leg amputated. Initially, he beat Osteosarcoma, but Aaron passed away at the age of 22 due to a brain tumor that had been caused by the chemotherapy treatments he endured. It’s something most don’t realize about kid’s cancer – most of the kids are treated with adult chemo and radiation. It’s too much for their growing bodies, and many of them go on to fight other battles with different cancers or long-term/fatal effects.
This is what the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is working on to change. A cure would be amazing, but we also want better and safer treatments for these kids too.
What does a St. Baldrick’s event consist of? Events around the world vary – but it comes down to this: volunteers sign up to BRAVE the SHAVE and GO BALD in solidarity against children’s cancer. Leading up to the event, Shavees (those volunteering to go bald) and other event volunteers will raise funds for St. Baldrick’s and children’s cancer research. J
The RTP St. Baldrick’s event was an amazing success! They surpassed their original fund raising goal and have already raised nearly $15,000 – and that’s WITHOUT the Cisco match for their efforts!
Andrea shared how amazing it was to see other Cisco employees come out and support St. Baldrick’s, “Cisco holds many events but this one was truly unique. It’s inspiring to see those you work with fully get behind an issue that is so close to your heart and for such an amazing cause…It made me realize how truly blessed I am to work with such an incredible group of people with such great hearts.”
After our events were over, Andres wondered, “How big can we make this? I think other Cisco employees are going to be excited to joins us! From Bangalore and our teams in EMEAR, to Mexico City, Canada, and SAN JOSE! I see a lot of bald heads in our future…”
I love that Cisconians throughout RTP (and, beyond!) are starting to BRAVE the SHAVE for these kids and this amazing cause that I’ve loved for so long. Our goal for next year is to have other Cisconians around the world join us in giving back with St. Baldrick’s. Will you be one of them?
During my first event with St. Baldrick’s, strangers became friends and seven years later – those strangers are my family in this crusade to conquer kid’s cancer. That family now includes my Cisco family and there aren’t words to tell you how proud that makes me.
When you’re passionate about something, there’s no other word for it. I’ve tried to find one, and – there just isn’t anything that yields the same emotion of the fiercely lit fire inside of you. Why let a sad thing continue, when you can effectively CHANGE its course? That, for me, is what keeps me going…that is what will have me going BALD next March. Anyone care to join me? 😉
Want to join a company that’s dedicated to giving back? We’re hiring.
Interested in learning more about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation or want to join us? Check out their website here, or reach out to Casie, Andres, and or Andrea for more details on how YOU can BRAVE the SHAVE! If you’d like to donate, our Cisco fundraising page can be found here – and Casie’s page is here — don’t forget to request a Cisco Match!