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Bald and bold: Freshman shaves head to raise money for cancer research

As Belmont freshman Megan Richardson went home for Easter break, she pictured family dinners and game nights, but not her family maintenance man believing she was her father’s son instead of his daughter.

While she wasn’t expecting to be mistaken for a boy in her own home, Richardson wasn’t surprised she was not recognized. After shaving her head on March 16 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a cancer research center, she has received strange looks and comments from many people she does not know. She soon realized that it is less common than she thought for a young woman to walk the streets of Nashville bald.

Richardson said she has always been aware of her God-given passions to reach out to the less fortunate and the insecure.

“In my walk with God, I have discovered that he has given me a heart for two huge things: children with special needs and self-image,” said Richardson.

For Richardson, it only took a day of thinking and praying to decide to shave her head.

“It’s not fair for children to have to go through something as serious and deadly as cancer,” said Richardson. “On top of that, it’s also not fair for those children, particularly the girls, to have to face the pressure of a society where looks mean everything.”

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation began on March 17, 2000 during a St. Patrick’s Day head-shaving event to benefit kids with cancer. The foundation planned to raise $17,000, but ended up raising more than six times that.

The foundation is now one of the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraising programs for childhood cancer research and has had more than 189,660 volunteers since it began. These shavees have raised over $117 million towards cancer research.

According to their mission, St. Baldrick’s Foundation “is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives.”

Richardson first heard about the foundation from her close friend, Jenna Pryor, a freshman theater major. Pryor’s friend from home in California had recently shaved her head for the foundation, and Pryor knew Richardson was just the girl for the cause.

“This just shows all aspects of her personality. Megan cares for people so much, but on the other hand she is a hilarious goofball,” said Pryor. “It makes total sense that she would say, ‘Oh, it’s just hair, no big deal.’”

Richardson responded exactly how Pryor imagined she would and before long had also pulled her friend, freshman Nick Estreem, in as well.

It was not Estreem’s first time shaving his head for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, so Richardson knew he was the perfect candidate to be her partner through this experience. Estreem lost a close friend during his senior year of high school, and chose to shave his head only a year ago with friends.

“I loved the experience of shaving my head for the foundation last year. It was so eye-opening and liberating,” said Estreem. “So, of course I was happy to do it again when Megan told me she was doing it.”

The two found comfort working with and supporting one another throughout the process. Richardson was especially grateful for the comfort of a friend, as she had never shaved her head before.

“I have no doubt that God has placed Nick in my life for a very specific reason, and without Nick’s support and inspiration, I know my experience would not have been the same,” said Richardson.

To begin the process, both Richardson and Estreem went to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website and registered to have their own profile. Both students set a goal for the amount of money they wanted to raise and signed up for the closest head-shaving event: Bald in the Boro on March 16.

While Richardson originally believed her goal of $2,000 was far-fetched because the majority of her donors would be college students, she was completely surprised when she not only reached her goal, but then exceeded it by another $500.

“It was awesome to hear Megan talk about how random people would donate to the cause. She said she would be sitting in her lobby and someone would randomly come by and hand her a $100 bill,” said Pryor.

While the Belmont students in Richardson’s life were touched and willing to give to the cause, the community was also affected by her giving spirit.

After leaving Bald in the Boro, Richardson was stopped by a woman with her son who had cancer. The woman embraced her and thanked her repeatedly for impacting the community and their family.

“I kept it together while speaking with the mother, but as soon as I left, the tears hit me,” said Richardson. “That’s what it is all about. The families and the kids whose lives may completely change because of a few dollars donated to childhood cancer research.”

Not only have her actions impacted the lives of others, but it has changed her life as well.

“I have been so incredibly humbled through the reminder that beauty doesn’t require hair, and if the only thing wrong with me is the fact that I have a bald head, my life is pretty fantastic,” said Richardson. “I look at everything with a fresh perspective, maintaining a positive outlook on life. My spirit has been renewed with joy.”

As a result of the positive support and feedback both Richardson and Estreem have received through this process, they are encouraging others to join them in the fight to end childhood cancer.

“It is by far the most life changing experience I have gone through and I guarantee if you were to participate, you would have an entirely new appreciation for life and the cause,” said Richardson.

In order to further promote the cause on campus, the two are currently working together on bringing a head-shaving event to Belmont’s campus next year. Because both students are involved in the Greek community and the Student Government Association, they hope to make the event campuswide.

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