Thursday, October 2, 2014

A beautiful thing

I'm going to take a little break today from posting about my Napa adventures, because I witnessed something truly amazing and beautiful today that I wanted to share.

My dear friend, Stacy Austerman, participated in a St. Baldrick's event that was held on campus at the college where I work.  If you aren't familiar with the organization, St. Baldrick's is a "volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives." St. Baldrick's is known for its head-shaving events, which I learned, began as a challenge between businessmen to raise funds for childhood cancer research.

In the past, I've seen competitions among donors in which the person who raises the most money has their head shaved.  One year on campus at work, we did a penny war type of competition among faculty and staff and the person who had the most money in their jar was to shave their head.  I've known several co-workers who've shaved their heads and I've see the "after" hairdo (or lack thereof), but I have never witnessed the actual shaving itself.

Stacy mentioned to me earlier this summer that she really wanted to raise funds for St. Baldrick's and I asked her if she would shave her head if she reached her fundraising goal.  She told me that she was going to shave her head regardless of how much money she raised and I thought that was so badass!

The lovely Stacy Austerman pre-St. Baldrick's shaving
Watching her fundraise was really inspiring, but watching her shave her head today was truly inspiring.  I knew it would be difficult for her, so our department headed over to campus (we work in a building a few blocks away) with a few motivational signs (We are so proud of you, Stacy; Stacy is a #baldbeauty; #YouGotThis) to cheer her on.  Stacy's family, including her two daughters, her husband, and several other family members were also there, which was sweet.

Stacy and her crew before the shaving began
When it was Stacy's turn, the crowd got a little quiet and I could tell Stacy was feeling a bit emotional.  You don't think about it often, but your hair represents a big part of who you are.  I don't think about mine too much, except in the morning when I'm trying to get it styled the way I want, but as Stacy got ready to shave hers off, I started thinking about what it would be like to not have mine.  Your hair doesn't define you by any means, but it is certainly a big part of who you are and I can't imagine what it would be like to not have it. This also led me to think about all of the children who suffer from cancer (or adults for that matter) who, during the course of their treatment, lose their hair and how they must feel about that in an already difficult time.  My admiration for Stacy grew in that moment; not only had she raised a significant amount of money for childhood cancer research, but she also selflessly stepped way outside of her comfort zone and shaved her head as a show of solidarity and to stand beside those children fighting cancer every day and that's pretty damn amazing.  She also set a beautiful example for her daughters about what it means to be a caring, altruistic woman who makes the world a better place one step at a time.  

Even though Stacy shaved her head this afternoon, her fundraising efforts continue and I wanted to share the link to her page for those who are interested in making a donation to childhood cancer research.  Everyday, children across the world are fighting battles that they shouldn't have to with strength and dignity that most adults yearn for.  Wouldn't it be amazing if our children's children didn't have to worry about childhood cancer?  I believe that is a reality as organizations, like St. Baldrick's, continue to raise funds for research.  Please consider a donation!
Me with the beautiful, inside and out, Stacy.  Seriously, isn't that one top notch looking scalp?  And yes, she is still holding her hair!  I don't blame her, I think I would be, too.  
Stacy, I am so freaking proud of you!  Your commitment and dedication to raising funds for St. Baldrick's is inspiring and I am so lucky to have such a wonderful friend, who is beautiful on the inside and out!  I know today wasn't easy, but you handled it with grace and dignity.  Thank you for inspiring me in so many ways!

"Their laughter will make your heart melt. Their strength will make a grown person cry.  If you ever see a child fight cancer, it will change your life forever."