St. Patrick’s Day will be a hair raising — or rather hair shaving — good time with the Carson City Fire Department.
The agency is hosting its 7th annual St. Baldrick’s Conquer Kids’ Cancer to raise money for childhood cancer on Saturday.
And it’s not only the men shaving off their luscious locks. Women from all over the community participate to show their support. This year, one local woman is shaving her head to honor her daughter and late best friend.
Sarah Morrison’s five-year-old daughter Maya was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2016 and had lost her hair to the disease. While Maya is technically in remission for the disease, she still has to receive biweekly treatments to help keep the leukemia out of her body and keep it from reforming.
“So we still have two and a half more years of treatment to make sure it doesn’t come back,” Morrison said. “So she has been ‘free’ for about two years, but it could come back in a month, in two weeks or tomorrow, we just don’t know.”
Morrison also lost her best friend to cancer when she was a teenager.
“When I think of them, losing my hair isn’t bad because I don’t have that with the pain and physical psyche change,” Morrison said. “I have let go of what the hair represents. When I look back and what they had to endure, a shaved head is the least that I could do.”
For the family, St. Baldrick’s couldn’t come at a better time. Maya’s last chemotherapy treatment comes one month after the event.
“I feel like it is symbolic,” Morrison said.
Morrison said she wanted to participate last year, but Maya asked her not to as she couldn’t take more change in her life.
“She was clinging onto my ‘Elsa’ hair, as she called it,” Morrison said. “So I didn’t want anything else to change for her. But she has started to grow her hair back, it is almost shoulder length now and I asked her again (if I could participate this year.”
Morrison said once she explained to her daughter the action would result in research money for other kids, she approved. She said though she was nervous, it was a worthwhile cause.
“There are so many things to be afraid of and not having hair because of your choice shouldn’t be something to be afraid of,” Morrison said. “Losing your hair not because of your choice, now that’s scary.”
For her, Morrison is going to use this as a cleanse, as a way to be renewed from all of the hardships for her family brought on with the cancer.
“There is a lot of past in (my hair), and I am ready to get rid of it and shed it,” Morrison said. “We are ready for new... I had this hair since she was diagnosed so it is symbolic, it is time to start over and let it go.”
“I am just worried that my head will be too round once it is shaved,” Morrison joked.
While the hair shaved during the event isn’t typically donated, it’s about the support, showing the kids they aren’t alone.
“The reason we shave our heads is to show solidarity for the kids who lose their hair during chemotherapy treatments so we want to show them, ‘hey, we are willing to lose our hair too for something that is unwarranted,” said organizer Curtis Baker with the Carson City Fire Department. “When we run calls for kids with cancer, they are the most undeserving patients we have.”
This year, the event will be held in McFadden Plaza because of the growth of the event during the last several years.
“We changed the venue this year because we outgrew Red’s Old 395 Grill physically,” Baker said. “Red’s has always been a great partner to us in the last several years and we love what they did for us, but we exceeded the capacity that Red’s could offer.
“But we are excited to offer this year in a more central location and be able to include more of the community.
Baker started this tradition in Carson after hosting it in Reno for several years because of a cancer patient he met while on the job.
“It all started with a kid here, we were on a call and had to run him to Stanford (for treatment) and I did that for a year,” Baker said. “It just always happened that it was during my shift and I was the one called out to it; his family called me his personal paramedic.”
It was on that first day Baker transported the family they found out about the cancer, and he built a friendship with the family for a year and grew close to the five-year-old patient and his parents. Baker was also there on the last day, when the boy died.
“It was like I was there through the entire process, I was there when they got the diagnosis and I was there in the hospital room when he died,” Baker said. “I watched his dad hold his dead son in his arms and I just thought about how (the boy) didn’t deserve that, he was completely innocent, he did nothing to deserve the cancer... It was the most heart-breaking thing I have ever experienced.”
It was then Baker decided to do his part so no other family had to go through that.
So far, the department has raised more than $100,000 since the inception in Carson City, with almost $12,000 raised last year. This year, Baker said, they’re at about $5,000 in donations with pre-registration — and about $2,200 donation came from the Carson City chapter of the IAFF.
“It is amazing because it all goes back to Northern Nevada’s children,” Baker said.
St. Baldrick’s has quickly become a community wide event. Baker said participants from East Fork Fire District, Tahoe-Douglas Fire, Incline Fire, Storey County Fire, Central Lyon Fire and the Carson City Sheriff’s Office will all be present to support. And several local businesses are offering their time and services for free, such as be-spoke salon shaving the heads and The Fox is donating beer for the firefighters to sell.
“It brings people from the community not only with first responders but people from all walks of life,” Baker said. “It is an opportunity to celebrate life and raise money for a good cause.”
While there’s no fee to get shaved, the organizers are asking for a donation to the cause.
The event will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at the McFadden Plaza. Participants can sign up at stbaldricks.com or in person at the event.