Team Brent’s Hosts Annual Event: Shaving off a head of hair in hopes that a child can grow another By Shaina Selvaraju

Though it was well before the start of the anticipated event, the gym was already filled with lively chatter of the participants and those who came to support them or the cause. Some ran their fingers through their hair for the last time, questioning what it would be like after it was all gone. Others sported shirts and sashes that showed the number of year they had dedicated to this cause as they met up with familiar faces they had met at this event in the past. While some were quite seasoned and others just beginning, they all had come in support of Team Brent, a group that also fundraises for St. Baldricks, who was holding their thirteenth annual head shaving event at the Westport Weston YMCA on Sunday March 26, 2017.

Co-Founder of Team Brent, Dana McCreesh says “What is touching to me is when you look at the number of chains and they filled people. You have a woman who owns a chocolate shop sitting next to a seven year old boy who collected twenty dollars by collecting cans, sitting next to someone who runs a hedge fund, sitting next to the Weston lacrosse team. Everyone is equal and everyone is just sitting next to each other with one goal together.”

McCreesh and her husband Michael, co-founded Team Brent thirteen years ago when their son Brent was diagnosed, at the age of two, with neuroblastoma. According to Mayoclinic, it is a very rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer that usually affects children beneath the age of five and “ develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body.”

When Chloe Pharnell ’17 and her family, a good friends of the McCreesh family, “heard that the son, two years old, had cancer, we basically decided to support them. everyone has their own interpretation of [the event] but Mine is that even though their son doesn’t have cancer anymore we are still doing all we can to help others in a similar situation.” When talking about her experience with event, after being involved with it for so long, she say It’s just satisfying. I’m helping others and I’m helping others help others.”

There were 151 heads shaved that day with over $150k made. Participants ranged from children to the elderly. There were people who had been here since the beginning, who had been this for more than half their life, people who had been doing this for a couple of years, and others who were doing this for the very first time.

One of the newer shavers this year was Aarti Khosla, the owner of Le Rouge Handmade Chocolates & Cakes by Aarti in Westport, Connecticut. Despite participating for the very first time only beginning to raise money three days before the event, Khosla managed to raise the second largest sum, of $7,279. People ask are you prepared, are you nervous and I was none of those. I was absolutely prepared and once I made the decision it wasn’t a question of why I’m doing it, it just felt right. I didn’t want to do it halfway so I just went full in,” she said in regards to why she chose to do the event.

The Westport Weston YMCA has been hosting this event for three years now. In an attempt to become more involved with the community, they were trying to participate in meaningful events that had an impact. According to Jay Jaronko, the event “ certainly aligned with our mission at the Y to nurture all people but to also be socially responsible and we thought that raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer is as about as socially responsible as you can get.” He continues on to say that although “[St. Baldricks] might not be getting the results as fast as they want, they can point to actual people who are being saved because of the research money that people are donating.”

Before Team Brent became it’s own group under the St. Baldrick's organization, they raised funds as a part of the organization's event. When friends and family started asking how they could get involved or if they could shave their own in honor of Brent. After the receiving so much support, they decided to form their own group in association with St. Baldrick’s and have continued to raise money for pediatrics cancer. Even after Brent’s recovery, the group continues to raise money for the cause.

“It’s such an amazing organization and they are funding really cutting edge cancer research. What keeps me coming back is the hope for the future that there will be a cure or at least there are developments that are making a difference,” Courtney Yanni said. In addition to being a volunteer for St. Baldricks and an organizer for the event, she was one of the McCreesh’s neighbors who helped from the beginning. Yanni claims that the “just makes me aware of what people go through in our own town, in our own neighborhood. We all just live these fast and furios lives and I think it's important to stop and look around and to hear other people's stories.”

Tags: Fundraising, Events, Cancer, Cause, Support

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