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Observer reporter shaves head for St. Baldrick’s fundraiser

By Elisabeth Arriero
Elisabeth Arriero
Elisabeth Arriero is a local and community news reporter for The Charlotte Observer. She is shaving her head as part of a fundraiser for The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research.

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Two days before shaving my head as part of the Charlotte Checkers’ St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser, I seriously questioned my decision to participate.

But when I walked up to the registration table Saturday, just minutes before my shave time, I remembered what this event was really about: saving lives and raising awareness.

Ann Dang and her oldest son, Drew, were standing there, and they handed me my participant T-shirt and appreciation certificate. Missing was her younger son, 3-year-old Carter Dang, who had battled neuroblastoma since 2011. I had chosen to honor him as part of my fundraiser months earlier.

Carter died Feb. 27, just weeks before the event for St. Baldrick’s, a nonprofit that supports childhood cancer research.

Carter and his family had faced cancer head-on, navigating doctors, clinical trials, chemotherapy and scans. And although Carter ultimately lost his battle, his family still showed up Saturday to greet and register participants. And dad Hao Dang even got his head shaved after raising more than $4,000.

If they could do that after all they’d been through, what fear did I need to have about shaving my head?

I checked in and took one more look at my hair in the mirror. Shortly before my 3:15 p.m. shave time, a barber chair opened up, and I went for it.

I closely watched my loved ones’ reactions as the barber shaved my head, trying to glean how pretty or ugly my skull looked from their faces. My 7-year-old niece warned that I probably didn’t want to look in the mirror. My boyfriend suggested the barber just leave behind a mullet. “They’re coming back,” he joked.

My mom was speechless, and my dad said I looked great.

Finally it was over, and I got to feel my shaved head for the first time. It was a lot more prickly than I expected.

But I was rather pleased. No marks of the beast on my scalp. No strange lumps. Anatomically, my head’s pretty normal. Well, the outside is anyway.

Walking outside, amid all of the St. Patrick’s Day revelers, I felt empowered. I’d always wanted to shave my head but it was so much more meaningful to do it for a worthy cause, raising $1,125 for childhood cancer research and honoring a brave local boy in the process. And ultimately, it was that cause – not the cocky assumption I’ve held for years that I could pull off the bald look – that gave me the courage to follow through on Saturday.

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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