Wednesday, 46 women will gather in Union Station to publicly allow their heads to be shaved. The soon-to-be-bald women are all mothers whose children are struggling with or have died of cancer.
These are tough parents, intent on raising money to combat childhood cancers. Already more than $300,000 has been pledged to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity that funds childhood cancer research, for what organizers are calling “46 Mommas Shave for the Brave.”
Forty-six is a key number here. An average of 46 children are diagnosed with cancer every week day of the year, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. “If we can’t help our kid, we want to help the next kid,” said Danielle Leach, the event coordinator and an Arlington mother who’s son, Mason, died of cancer in 2007.
The “Shave” was born out of an e-mail exchange among parents of cancer patients and victims last year. The first event like this was held last year in Los Angeles. This one, Sept. 21 from 5 to 9 p.m., is timed to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and will be coupled with Capitol Hill lobbying to ask legislators to prioritize childhood cancer research funding.
I asked Leach, a parent who has endured the unthinkable, how and why she has become part of this group. Her response, an inspiration, is partially reprinted here:
“When tragedy strikes, you have a choice, you can either let it defeat you or you can take action. I have experienced childhood cancer twice in my lifetime. First as a sibling. My sister was diagnosed with childhood cancer as a teenager and survived. Then in 2006, my son, Mason was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age three. I think the epitaph on Mason’s headstone best describes our little boy: Mason Robert Leach: Superhero, soccer star, artist, and our loving, laughing little boy gone too soon. Just after his 5th birthday, he lost his battle with brain cancer in October 2007…
What has spurred me on to do a crazy thing like shave my head? I know what it is like to sit with the doctors and hear that there are no other options to keep your child alive. I know what it is like trying to find some new drug or treatment to save your baby’s life. I held Mason during times of intense pain and suffering from his treatment. I held my baby in my arms as he died. That is why I shave my head — for Mason and every other child who has battled childhood cancer.
This also impacts families. We sit at the dinner table every night with an empty seat. Mateo, Mason’s brother, will grow up as an only child. My husband and I had two children, not one. Cancer robbed our family of a wonderful sweet little boy who should be here with us today. It is worth every hair on my head to help be a part of a cure so that no other child has to suffer like Mason did or go through our family’s pain. Hair grows back, kids don’t.
The only way we will conquer childhood cancer is through more research, and that takes money. We can’t wait until more funding comes from the government or if the pharmaceutical companies ever decide to invest in childhood cancer drug development. Our kids can’t wait.”
To learn more about “Shave for the Brave” visit the 46 Mommas Web site or the event’s Facebook page. Or check out the bravery in person. The event is open to the public.