Another five are donating their ponytails to make wigs for children who have lost their hair as a result of cancer treatment.
The students will hold a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser Wednesday, Feb. 6, at noon in the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library Auditorium, and hope to raise a minimum of $5,000. They are taking donations for the event online.
According to information from St. Baldrick’s, less than 5 percent of federal research funding for cancer research is allocated to childhood cancers.
“There is a strong need to invest in pediatric cancer research through programs such as St. Baldrick’s,” said Ken Lucas, MD, chief, UofL Division of Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders. “These foundations are important sources of funds for pediatric cancer research, and without their support, many novel ideas would not be explored.”
Second-year medical student Whitney Ward of Summersville, Ky., saw the need firsthand as a volunteer at Kosair Children’s Hospital.
“A lot of the kids where I volunteered have cancer,” she said. “I know the statistics: one of every five kids with cancer will die from it, and two out of three who do survive have long-term health conditions because of it.
“So when these kids would talk about what they wanted to be when they grow up — it was hard, wondering if they would make it. That’s why I wanted to support St. Baldrick’s.”
Getting to know a child with cancer also motivated third-year medical student Chris Arbonies to get involved. As an undergraduate, he played basketball for the North Carolina State University Wolfpack, where a child involved with the Make-A-Wish program became a special part of the team.
“This kid had a type of brain cancer, neurofibromatosis type 1, and we (the team) adopted him, so to speak,” said Arbonies, who played under the name Chris McCoy. “He had lost almost all of his vision because of the cancer, and he could no longer receive chemotherapy.
“But the amount of strength he showed everyday was amazingly inspirational. He lost his battle after three years, but he never lost his smile. Shaving my head will just be a symbolic gesture, but the money we can raise for St. Baldrick’s will continue the research that will one day lead to a cure for a number of childhood cancers,” Arbonies said.
Arbonies wanted to get others involved, as well, and approached Mike Rutherford, manager of Card Chronicle, a UofL sports blog affiliated with SB Nation. Rutherford is offering his readers the chance to win two tickets to the UofL-Seton Hall game on Feb. 23 or the UofL Senior Day game against Notre Dame on March 9 by donating at least $10 to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“I’d actually never heard of St. Baldrick’s until Chris came to me with the idea,” Rutherford said. “When he explained what it was and what he wanted to do, I was all for it. Combining Louisville sports with a good cause is always a no-brainer.”
Other giveaways are planned as well. The students are raffling off gift cards and other prizes donated by area merchants. Drawings for each prize will be held at the Feb. 6th event and winners do not need to be present to win.