AK: Going Bald
When you’re a teenager, looks matter. But one girl in Sitka decided that those concerns were trivial, and shaved her head for a cause much bigger than herself. By choosing to go bald, she was supporting childhood cancer research across the U.S.
“My name is Celia Lubin. I’m 15-years-old and I go to Sitka High School.”
Like a lot of teenagers, she has a rebellious streak.
“My hair is purply, browny, blondy and its braids, and yeah,” Celia said.
She does a bunch of activities, like swimming, soccer, drama & debate, concert band, and she has her own radio show. But she’s doing something that very few teenage girls would do.
“I am shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s,” Celia said.
Over the past decade, St. Baldrick’s Day has become a major fundraising event for pediatric cancer research. It all began in 1999 when a group of insurance executives in Manhattan shaved their heads in solidarity with young cancer patients.
At the Sitka event, Celia is the only teenage girl in line to go bald. She says cancer affects everybody’s lives.
“Probably everyone knows someone who’s had cancer,” she said. “It’s kind of devastating to think about, but it’s so common that everyone knows someone.”
Celia heard about St. Baldrick’s from a family friend and the main organizer of the event, David Vastola. He’s a doctor at SEARHC and has treated kids with cancer. He says because pediatric cancer is less common than adult cancer, it receives much less funding for research. Celia wants to give these sick children her support in a tangible way.
“People who do chemo and lose their hair, it can be kind of isolating I think, so showing them support, not only with money and ‘hey I’m raising awareness for this cause,’ but, I’m going to stand there with you,” Celia said.
At the St. Baldrick’s event at the Sitka Elks Lodge, men and boys are sitting in barber chairs on stage, while local hair stylists shave their heads. A little boy is walking around collecting pledges and stuffing them into an envelope. There are about 100 people sitting at the tables, eating dinner and watching the action.
Lubin’s mom, Lisa Busch, says she was skeptical about her daughter’s decision at first.
“I thought, really?? Can we pay you to not shave your head?,” Lisa said.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m feeling really excited for Celia. Just like proud of her for doing this. Wondering what she’s going to look like bald,” Lisa said, laughing.
“They didn’t really have a lot of say. If they did object, I was just like, ‘Hey, I’m not doing drugs. I’m raising money for cancer,’” Celia said.
At the Elk’s Lodge, the announcer introduces Celia to the crowd.
“Who, at 15 years old, would have shaved their head? This is a very brave young lady…”
“I’m a little bit nervous but I’m really excited,” Celia said.
Celia’s hair is wavy and hangs past her shoulders. It’s brown with fresh dark purple streaks running randomly through it. The hair stylist who’s going to cut Celia’s hair helps the teen get comfortable.
Casey: “What’s your name?”
Casey: “I’m Casey. I shaved my head last year. It’s awesome. You’re gonna love it. Ready?”
Casey: “Alright, here it goes.”
Because Celia recently dyed her hair, her scalp has some purple spots on it.
“Yeah. i figured that would happen,” Celia said.
After Celia has her head completely shaved, she walks over to a table where her parents and friends are sitting.
“It looks great. It looks so good. I’m proud of her. She has a nice shaped head. I’m a lucky papa,” they said.
“It feels so good. I’ve never felt anything like this before,” Celia said.
Celia raised nearly $3,000 in pledges for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Since 2004, the national organization has contributed more than $100 million to fight pediatric cancers.
Celia does not see her participation as just a stunt.
“I know that I had a cancer free childhood and it was really great. I just think it would be really scary for kids my age and younger to have to go through something life-threatening illness like cancer, and I want to be able to help a little bit,” Celia said.
And she’s not worried about her lost locks. She says it’s just hair and it’ll grow back.