FOX LAKE – Applause echoed in the gymnasium of Grant Community High School in Fox Lake on March 11 as 10-year-old Lorelei Denny and her father, Nick, stepped forward from the crowd.
They each donned a barber’s cape and sat before the crowd as the unmistakable buzz of electric hair clippers filled the air. Then the father and daughter duo grinned as two hairstylists began shaving their heads.
Lorelei and her father were just two of the people who shaved their heads as part of Grant’s “Bulldogs Taking a Bite Out of Cancer” charity event for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises funds to find a cure for childhood cancer.
“I’m extremely proud [of Lorelei],” said Denny, a resident of Spring Grove. “My wife and I decided to surprise her with me sitting down next to her and shaving my head [because] we thought she was going to be nervous. [But] we kept asking her and she wasn’t. She had no nerves whatsoever. She was just ready to go.”
Event organizer and Grant teacher Sheryl Dempsey presented Lorelei with an award for being the chapter’s top fundraiser this year after raising more than $1,500.
“I started to think about it and I feel bad for people who have cancer,” Lorelei said. “When [my mom] told me about it, I said I want to do it because it’s really nice.”
Rubbing her newly bald head, Lorelei added, “It’s just really cold now.”
Dempsey addressed the crowd before the shave began.
“You little ones, you are our future, so we want to make sure we get research, we get results,” she said. “I keep [thinking] in the back of my mind: It’s that last 25 cents to buy that last test tube that’s gonna hold the cure for all of it and bust it all wide open.”
A cancer survivor, Dempsey has been involved with the organization for 10 years and has shaved her head as a sign of solidarity for nine.
“The reason I like this organization so much,” she said over a round of applause as another pair sat down for their shave, “is nearly 85 percent of the money they raise goes directly to research.”
While many participants registered for the event in a display of solidarity for children battling cancer, some shaved their heads in memory of a loved one they’d lost to the disease.
Fox Lake resident Jean Kosar did nothing to stop the tears from flowing, but she beamed with pride as she watched her granddaughter Maya sit in the barber’s seat. Kosar had lost her husband – Maya’s grandfather – to lung cancer in June 2010.
St. Baldrick’s was officially formed in 2005 and has since raised $200 million in research funds in events across the nation. In 2015, according to the St. Baldrick’s website, “as a result of research supported by St. Baldrick’s, the FDA approved a new drug that drastically increases the cure rate for high-risk neuroblastoma patients. It’s only the third approved drug in 20 years made specifically for kids with cancer.”
As another participant finished, Dempsey removed her white headband covered in four-leaf clovers and sat down in the seat. Her husband stood in the front of the crowd, taking pictures to send to their two children who live in Tennessee and were raising their own funds for the event.
“Can I tell y’all a secret,” she said to the crowd. “Hair grows.”