Friday, June 5, 2020

Athletes shave heads for cancer awareness

April 18, 2019
Senior quarter back Brian Lewerke (14) warming up during the Green and White game at Spartan Stadium on April 13, 2019. The green team defeated the white team 42-26.
Senior quarter back Brian Lewerke (14) warming up during the Green and White game at Spartan Stadium on April 13, 2019. The green team defeated the white team 42-26. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

When Michigan State field hockey player Bailey Higgins learned of her friend’s diagnosis during her first year of college, she returned to her hometown to shave her head and raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. 

St. Baldrick’s raises funds for childhood cancer research. It began in 1999 and has since raised over $255 million.

“My freshman year of college, I had a friend get diagnosed with brain cancer so I said, ‘I’m going to do it for her.’ So, I did it,” Higgins said. “I went home to my grade school and raised a little over $1,600 for that, which is amazing.”

Afterwards, Higgins contribution caught the attention of MSU, where a story was written and picked up by the Big Ten Network. 

“St. Baldrick’s had seen it and reached out and said, ‘We see all this publicity it’s getting and we know that there is not an event at Michigan State currently. We would love for you to run an event there,’” Higgins said. “I said I absolutely would, I would just have to wait until I’m a senior.” 

After Higgins’ senior season was over, she began to plan the St. Baldrick’s event in coordination with Relay for Life.

As the event drew near, Higgins was approached by MSU baseball players who wanted to donate, but had a game at the same time as the event. After talking with their coaches, the baseball players were able to donate an hour before the event begaan. 

“We went to the baseball field an hour before the event and were supposed to shave three heads, and it ended up boys just kept stepping up. It was pretty cool,” Higgins said. 

Nine baseball players shaved their heads for St. Baldrick’s.

“It feels weird not having any hair. I’ve always had long hair, but it was for a good cause so we’re all really happy to do it,” junior outfielder Danny Gleaves said. “We’re honored to be a part of this great cause, that’s really what it’s all about.”

With a stage and three barbers, about 25 people shaved their heads. Six people cut their hair to be donated to make wigs.

“MSU athletics has helped a lot. I don’t think it would have been nearly the event it was without the help of a lot of people in the athletics department and a lot of the athletes,” Higgins said. “I think especially getting some of the bigger football guys involved helped a lot. It meant a lot to me that they were putting it out there because they obviously have a ton of followers all over the place. To have them step up was a pretty big deal and I really appreciated it.”

Senior Brian Lewerke was one of the players to attend the event. He recalled when Higgins shaved her head her freshman year.

“One of my friends on the field hockey team did it two or three years ago,” Lewerke said. “I wanted to do it this year since it was my last year in college, my last time to be able to do something like that.”

Lewerke shaved his head along with several other Spartan football players.

“With the length it was, it wasn’t too bad. I’m a guy so it’ll grow back in three or four weeks,” Lewerke, who raised about $1,500, said. “I think there were four or five  girls that did it and I think that was really brave of them. It takes almost a year to grow their hair back.”

As of April 17, $43,735 was raised for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Higgins, swim and dive senior Sarah Love and football junior Tommy Liesveld raised the most of all participants.

Around the time of the event several MSU students formed the a club, Students for St. Baldrick’s. The group’s goal is to continue to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer and research.

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