Hair falls as money rises at childhood cancer event
Those who wanted to raise money for childhood cancer research had two options in Forest Grove last Saturday, Sept. 9: shave their heads or play golf.
About 40 people chose to get shaved.
The fundrasier was sponsored by St. Baldrick's Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit that raises funds to help find cures for childhood cancer. Its signature fundraisers include head-shaving events that gather willing volunteers who've raised money through family, friends and businesses. The shaved heads are meant to show support for children who lose their hair during treatments.
A local group started raising money for St. Baldrick's in western Washington County last year and threw in a golf tournament to help. So far, funds have exceeded this year's $5,000 goal.
One man shaved his head in memory of his nephew.
Two recent high school graduates from Vancouver, Wash., wanted to do something to give back before heading off to college.
An 11-year-old local boy grew out his hair for the occasion and donated it to Locks of Love to be made into a wig for those undergoing cancer treatments.
Michael Goodwin shaved his head in honor of Shannon Strickland, a Forest Grove teenager who died in 2013 after a multi-year battle with a rare cancer.
Shannon's parents, David and Coral Strickland, helped organize the event.
Childhood cancer "impacts so many more people than we even realize," Coral said. This event shows "this really hits home for many."
About 41 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in the United States, David said. One out of five will die, he added, while two out of five will have long-term effects from treatment.
After participating in a Portland St. Baldrick's event for years with their daughter, the Stricklands took over last year, organizing a western Washington County event when the Portland one folded. Over the years, Coral said they've helped raise more than $150,000 for childhood cancer research.
While they don't have a final tally for last weekend because donations are still flowing in, they've raised about $6,600 so far.
"We want to pay it back and pay it forward," Coral said of her family's motivation.
Only 3 to 4 percent of money raised for cancer research goes toward finding better treatments and a cure for childhood cancers, Coral said. Unlike many cancers that arise in adulthood, she said, childhood cancers are largely genetic and often require a different treatment approach than one caused by lifestyle. Cancer research and treatments are often conducted on adults, Coral added, but can be too harsh on young, growing bodies and lead to more problems down the road.
That's why research conducted for childhood cancers is so important — and 82 percent of the funds raised through St. Baldrick's goes straight to research.
While Coral doesn't shave her head for the event because Shannon told her years ago "it would be too weird," she does serve as the event's treasurer. Her husband serves as an event organizer along with Adam Bush, Amber Thomson and Shawn Thomson.
Coral said the number of people who signed up to have their heads shaved doubled since last year. This was Goodwin's fifth time.
Goodwin worked with David Strickland while Shannon was sick. "It was very difficult to see what he was going through and feel his plight," Goodwin said. "It was an eye-opening situation. It made us grateful."
David said the weekend's events are backed by serious subject matter, but are overall fun.
"It's extremely bittersweet," Coral said. "It's exciting. But you're doing this because your life has been impacted in some way. The reason you're doing this is not there anymore."
The Stricklands plan to help the event grow each year and are excited by the increased participation last weekend.
"It feels good because it's what our daughter Shannon would want," David said. "I think she'd give it a thumbs up — her trademark sign."
By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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