Tammy Lewis closed her eyes as about 200 people watched her shoulder-length silvery gray hair fall to the floor of the stage.
Lewis, 47, and Dwayne, her 7-year-old son, were two of 38 participants who shaved their heads Friday on Flavet Field for the Freshman Leadership Council event known as St. Baldrick’s.
A charity dedicated to funding childhood cancer research, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation held its first head-shaving event on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000.
This year, the FLC raised about $14,000, double the amount raised at the first St. Baldrick’s at UF, said Leigh Robertson, the 21-year-old UF political science junior.
Event organizer McLane Edwards, a 19-year-old UF political science freshman, said what began as an impulse decision became a mark of solidarity for childhood cancer patients.
“You can’t, like, really go into it thinking, ‘Aw, how am I going to look?’ because you’re gonna look goofy,” Edwards said. “That’s just how it’s going to be.”
Lewis, of Middleburg, Fla., was one of two women who participated in the head-shaving event.
She chose to volunteer in St. Baldrick’s at UF before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2013. She said she was nervous that the chemotherapy was going to take its toll on her hair before the event.
“It was getting to the point where I was wondering if (my hair) was going to last until today,” Lewis said, “and it held on for me.”
She said she participated to celebrate that Dwayne, her blind foster son who suffered from an eye cancer called bilateral retinoblastoma, has been cancer-free for five years.
After Lewis and her son finished getting their heads shaved, they joined in the middle of the stage to embrace and feel each other’s clean-shaven heads.
Cancer patients and survivors weren’t the only participants Friday, as about two dozen UF students volunteered to shave their locks for the cause.
Travis Dobler, a 21-year-old UF advertising junior and captain of the Florida Cicerones team, said this was his third time shaving his head for St. Baldrick’s.
He said he plans to become a four-year shavee but realizes he must be creative to keep the donations coming.
This year, Dobler dyed the tips of his hair blond to draw attention to his locks and the event but said he accidentally dyed his entire scalp shortly afterwards.
“You have to do these PR stunts to kind of keep people interested,” Dobler said, “or I just look like a guy who gets a free haircut once a year.”
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 3/17/2014 under the headline "38 people get close shave for cancer"]
Marguerite Gaisser shaves Dwayne Lewis’ head Friday afternoon on Flavet Field as part of the Freshman Leadership Council’s annual St. Baldrick’s event benefiting cancer research. The 7-year-old, who is blind due to retinoblastoma, got his head shaved to celebrate being cancer-free for five years.