Standing in solidarity with cancer patients, members of the Austin community shaved their heads on the steps of the Main Building Saturday.
Approximately 160 shavees registered to shave their heads and raised more than $55,000 for pediatric cancer research as a part of St. Baldrick’s cancer awareness event.
Hosted by Students Making Impacts Through Love and Empathy, this was the first year the University sponsored the “Shave for a Cure” event, said Sabrina Khwaja, S.M.I.L.E. fundraising chair and biology junior.
S.M.I.L.E. is an organization on campus that spends time with children who are going through cancer to help them channel their emotions through various art projects.
Participating in St. Baldrick’s was a perfect way to support the children, Khwaja said.
“St. Baldrick’s is a new foundation that was started to raise money for pediatric cancer, which is an extremely underappreciated field of research,” Khwaja said.
Khwaja said the organization hopes to make this an annual event, and its success during its first year at UT was amazing.
“We had a great turnout of both volunteers shaving their heads as well as people just coming out to see what ‘Shave for a Cure’ actually is,” Khwaja said.
Through all of the fundraising, sponsorships of shavees and other donations, S.M.I.L.E. raised more than $55,000 Khwaja said.
“This exceeded our initial goal of $50,000, and this actually was one of the top-earning St. Baldrick’s events,” Khwaja said.
A few people who were not registered to shave their heads actually became inspired by the shavees and participated on the spot, Khwaja said.
While S.M.I.L.E. organized the event, other UT organizations participated by having booths with various arts and craft events for the children with cancer who came out to the event Khwaja said.
St. Baldrick’s became a University event after Hispanic studies senior and S.M.I.L.E. president Sofia Buitrago participated last year as a shavee at the event hosted by Dell Children’s Hospital.
Buitrago said she raised more than $5,000 as a participant last year and was eager to bring an event like this to campus.
“There are many people who would love to help out with causes like this, so we wanted to do something that will help create more awareness about pediatric cancer research,” Buitrago said.
Buitrago said this event went a lot better than she had imagined and she was ecstatic about the turnout to support those shaving their heads.
“A lot of work was put in by S.M.I.L.E. members to make this event a success, but it would not have been possible without the volunteers helping coordinate everything throughout the day or those brave enough to shave their heads for this cause,” Buitrago said.
Government sophomore Kumail Hasan said it was great to see so many people out there checking out the event, and he was proud to participate as a shavee this year to honor those in his family who have had to fight cancer.
“Battling cancer is an extremely difficult thing to do, and they showed me anything was possible,” Hasan said. “This was my way to honor their effort.”