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Battling cancer is hard enough. Losing your hair though is what many kids will tell you is the hardest part. The reality is children often lose their hair as a common side effect of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation.

Physical changes from treatment can make children self-conscious. It’s hard to look different than your peers, especially if it’s not by choice. Hair loss is also an outward sign of being sick. Dealing with these changes can be an added blow to a child whose world has already been turned upside down with cancer.

Clips for Cancer is designed to support children with cancer and empower them This September, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the Clips for Cancer event will raise money for Barbara’s Friends – Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund. All month long, community leaders will have their heads shaved by local children who’ve survived the battle of this vicious disease.

This year, Barbara’s Friends is celebrating 25 years of helping more than 10,000 local children battling blood disorders and pediatric cancers. Barbara’s Friends is important because:

  • No family is turned away because of their inability to pay
  • A cancer diagnosis could mean a protocol of treatment that can last up to three years. A local, specialized cancer program means families do not have to travel for lifesaving medical care
  • Family support, including a child psychologist, dedicated child life specialist and family educator are all provided to help families cope

This year the pandemic is adding another layer of stress and burden during an already difficult time of cancer treatment. Since March, more than 30 children have been told “you have cancer.” Thanks to Barbara’s Friends, these families can focus on caring for their children as they battle cancer.

Accordingly, Clips for Cancer starts Sept. 1 and will continue all month at Great Clips salons in Southwest Florida. Supporters can watch pediatric cancer survivors shave the heads of community leaders each Friday on Facebook Live. For event details, click here.

 

Going Bald Supports Children with Cancer

Barbara’s Friends supporters are going bald during September to show kids who lose their hair during treatment that people are standing beside them and they are not alone. “Shavees” (adults who choose to go bald) will be individually raising funds as well as awareness of childhood cancer. Many of these adults have battled cancer themselves or cared for family members who’ve been diagnosed.

Clips for Cancer works just like fundraising walks or road races. Participants raise money from friends and family, colleagues and other donors. As a celebration of their fight with the disease, childhood cancer survivors shave an adult’s head in a moment of empowerment that they defeated the disease.

“I’m going bald because our hair doesn’t define us. The essence of who we are is found within the heart and soul of people,” said Dr. Scott Nygaard, Chief Operating Officer at Lee Health. “It does make us look different, but it is a small price to pay for a good cause and allows us to have fun together to support kids with cancer.”

 

History of Clips for Cancer

Clips for Cancer started in 2018 when Golisano Children’s Hospital Chief Administrative Officer Armando Llechu met 19-year-old Mackenzie, who inspired the event. After 20 surgeries, 30 radiation treatments and 10 months of chemotherapy, she still faced numerous hospital stays. Mackenzie went to occupational therapy for a month to be able to hold the clippers that would shave Armando’s head and others at that first event.

“Mackenzie has been an inspiration to me,” Llechu said. “From the moment I met her, I knew she possessed more strength and courage in her little body than I could ever hope to. I was simultaneously encouraged by her strength and saddened by the struggle that is so real in the lives of those we serve. I knew that in order to really care for our patients and families, we needed to connect with them and show our support and solidarity in a fun and yet meaningful way.”

 

Why Participants are Getting Shaved

Shavees often have their own inspiration for going bald. Illeny Farese joined Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida in 2017 to help families and children being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“Meeting families at their most vulnerable moments, and often going through unique situations, it is impossible not to feel the impact of their stories,” Farese said. “Nothing feels better than reassuring them that we are here to help ease their worries through such challenging days in their child’s life.”

Her goal is to go above and beyond to support the families she meets. As a result, Farese decided to have her head shaved by one of the children she met at Ronald McDonald House.

Cal Bruno, owner and chef of Bruno’s of Brooklyn in Fort Myers, lost his father to cancer. “Helping these children is a perfect example of how we can honor our loved ones that deserve to be honored,” he said. His friend Annabelle Phillips will be his “clipper” on 9/11. During the event, he will be joined by firefighters to recognize that being a New Yorker on 9/11 made everyone stronger. He and the first responders participating on 9/11 feel it’s a fitting tribute that the strength found on 9/11 and after is the same strength these kids and families need to overcome their cancer battle.

 

About Barbara’s Friends

Barbara’s Friends has a 25-year history of helping kids with cancer and life-threatening blood disorders. Support to Barbara’s Friends assists with the needs of patients and families, clinical trials, counseling, equipment, facilities, staffing and family assistance.
Examples of ways Barbara’s Friends supports children include:

  • Dinner for families while in the hospital at their child’s bedside
  •  End of chemo parties
  • Providing gas cards for transportation to treatments and doctor appointments
  • Home chemotherapy for leukemia patients
  • Sponsoring families who need assistance
  • Sending children to camp
  • Providing medication for Sickle Cell pain prevention not covered by Medicaid
  • Expanding the Adolescents and Young Adult (AYA) program to offer additional services for older children
  • Building an infusion clinic in Collier County
  • Launching a scholarship fund to ensure children battling cancer have an opportunity to become heroes of tomorrow

Donor dollars also help provide state-of-the-art care. Golisano Children’s Hospital of SWFL is part of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the national organization that provides top research and clinical trials. This means local children have the same access to care as other top centers of excellence, so children can get the personalized treatments they need, close to home. The recovery rate at Golisano Children’s Hospital surpasses the national average.

The Barbara’s Friends Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Outpatient Center at Golisano Children’s Hospital has treated more than 10,000 children with cancer and blood disorders. These young patients and families face many challenges – physically, emotionally and financially. More than half of the children treated for cancer at Golisano Children’s Hospital are uninsured, on Medicaid or have no form of payment. Barbara’s Friends has raised more than $20 million in 25 years. This support allows families to focus on helping their kids get better.

 

How You Can Support Clips for Cancer

Make a donation directly or donate to one of our amazing Shavees. Each Shavee has a personal goal of raising $2,500 or more. Click here every Friday in September to watch pediatric cancer survivors shave the heads of community leaders! To donate, visit BarbarasFriends.org/ClipsForCancer.
Let your solidarity – and head – shine with a donation to Barbara’s Friends. The fund will support kids in the pediatric hematology and oncology program right here at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Dare to bare your heart and your head for kids with cancer? Here’s what to do:

  1. Visit any Great Clips by appointment or walk-in
  2. Make your donation at BarbarasFriends.org
  3. Shave your head and post a photo with #ClipsforCancer