Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. Off with their hair!
Firefighters, law enforcement officers and teachers train diligently to maintain control of their motions during an emergency situation, a disaster. They need to be cool, to display a demeanor of command and calm to help others get through the crisis.
Nobody, however, trained the Gilpin County emergency workers and school employees who went under the scissors last Thursday, how to keep their faces from registering shock, fear, regret, trepidation and even a bit of pride and humor as their hair dropped to the gym floor where they sat under plastic sheets.
Already-short hair, prized long hair, mustaches, sideburns and long and short beards were buzzed off as the entire Gilpin County Elementary School got to watch the hair fly. They loved watching their computer teacher transform from short hair and beard to no hair and beard. Many of the men didn’t mind the pate hair going but weren’t about to say adieu to their facial hair. “But my son wouldn’t recognize me without my beard,” claimed one dad. These guys were brave, but they had their limits.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser took place at the Gilpin School last Thursday afternoon. Organized by Gilpin County Sheriff’s deputy Kevin Armstrong. It was the second time the event was held at the school, but it was Armstrong’s fifth event, having been a police officer with the Wheatridge Police Department for eight years. The event’s goal is to raise money to help fund cures for children with cancer.
Volunteers solicit sponsorship from family, friends, employers, employees and people who want to help but also want to hang on to their hair. It is a show of solidarity for children who have lost their hair during cancer treatment and the money also goes to research.
The event was founded on July 4, 1999 and the first fundraiser took place on March 17, 2000 at Jim Prady’s Pub in Manhattan where $104,000 was raised by 19 shavees. In the first year, the foundation raised $5.3 million for the Children’s Oncology Group.
Over 1,200 Baldrick’s event took place in 2016. Shavees gathered in schools, churches, pubs, malls, firehouses or parks.
Black Hawk and Central City firefighters and law enforcement officers lined up, along with the Gilpin School Superintendent, a Black Hawk Post Office worker, a visitor from England, and a basketball coach, 24 in all, volunteered their hair. The shavees were all men. And all of them looked younger without their hair, even the young ones.
Perhaps the most valiant of the volunteers were the two haircut professionals from SportsClips who volunteered their time and equipment to get the job done. Bethany Truck from Evergreen and Denise Kine of Wheatridge, were stoic as they systematically went at the heads of the shavees. First, they used scissors to reduce long strands to low-lying fluff; they got out the electric shavers.
Before they leveled the head hair, however, they had a little fun: a mohawk here, a couple of Devil’s horns, an adorable curl on the forehead, half a mustache left, just playing around as they did the deed.
With a non-stop huge smile on his always smiling face, Kevin Armstrong welcomed the volunteers and explained the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. He introduced Aiden Zeilbeck, 8, who was diagnosed with cancer five yeas ago and has been in remission for the past four years. Both Aiden and his mom wiped away tears as the audience applauded them. Aiden expressed his gratitude to the foundation and thanked the volunteers for donating their hair to the cause.
Tim Gay who works for the Black Hawk Post Office expressed some hesitation about cutting off his locks of gorgeous blonde hair after growing them for 12 years. He said being involved in the fundraiser was great but losing his hair felt slightly surreal. As the foot-long ponytails were clipped off, Tim Gray’s daughter Tabitha couldn’t hold back the tears. “It just looks so weird,” she said.
A young man who was visiting while on shore leave from the English Navy, decided that as long as he was in Gilpin County he would join in on the fun. Tom Hole, 20, was glad to be a part of it.
Gilpin High School senior Keldon Hurcheson, 18, said he had been planning to attend the event for a while and was happy to donate his hair to someone who didn’t have any.
A group of Timberline Fire Protection District firefighters offered mental support to each other as they bared their heads. Josh Kellett, Jan Ipande, Aaron Skeen, Chris Gay, Tony Stone, Chip Smith Tom O’Connel.
Gilpin School teacher and basketball coach Paul Hanson said he had never shaved his head before. As the razor zipped a path through his hair, he noted that his head felt lighter already, that his skin had just cooled off. When the hair was all gone, he looked up hopefully and said, “It’s not going to grow back gray, right?” No one had an answer for him.
At the end of the event, everyone returned to their everyday life, some of them feeling light-headed, but knowing that their hearts had been in the right place.
Kevin Armstrong was pleased with the results, saying the Baldrick’s Fundraiser will be back next year and is open to anyone who would like to participate.
“It is a tremendous way to bring the community together.”