The Best Thing I Did All Year

by Jess Walter
August 7, 2014

After Jess braved the shave, she said, “It was a deeply emotional, fulfilling experience, and one I’d gladly repeat.” Read on to learn why.

Sometimes you need to let go
Sometimes you just have to let go. Of your hair, that is.

I first heard about St. Baldrick’s when I was in college. Although there was no way I would have willingly become bald back then, I loved the idea of giving up something as replaceable as hair for a cause. It was brazen and generous, two things I knew I was, deep down past the vanity, past the insecurities.

Fast forward eight years, two children, 14 inches of blazing red hair, and buckets of self-confidence later. The new me reconsidered the prospect of shaving my head and was pleasantly unfazed by the idea of being bald.

I believed in the power of the Internet to aid in my fundraising; I live in Amsterdam, thousands of miles away from the bulk of my family and friends. Excited but still undecided, I went online to read about childhood cancer to remind myself why I felt so compelled to do this.

In the U.S., more kids are lost to cancer in the than any other disease. One in 285 kids in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20. Worldwide, a kid is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes.

And research matters. Since the 1950s, when the fatality rate was nearly 100%, treatment has climbed mountains, crossed rivers, and performed a miracle: sustaining life. And childhood cancer must be treated differently, meaning that separate funds must be raised to say sayonara to cancer and save kids’ lives.

Learn more about the impact of childhood cancer research >

Jess after shaving her head

Jess after shaving her head.

Now a mother twice over, I can more clearly imagine the pain of the families faced with a diagnosis. The imagining alone is paralyzing.

Parents should have to worry about temper tantrums, spilled cereal bowls, growth charts, registering for school, and first dates. Not scheduling chemo. Not an ailing child. Not death.

This second time around, it wasn’t a question of if; it was one of when. Hair, shmair. I set my date, and my goal.

On March 23, I had my head shaved. It was a deeply emotional, fulfilling experience, and one I’d gladly repeat. In the end, I raised $3,312, nearly one and a half times my target of $2,000.

Despite the heaviness of the reason behind the event, I made it fun. I created a video, celebrated every dollar raised, and honored the cause.

And, to sweeten the deal, my dad’s friends dared him to shave his head as well, promising a large collective donation. I’m not usually into losing, especially to my dad, but I’m fine seeing his money pot outdo mine — just this once. Fuel our little competition, and donate here!

I am so very grateful to everyone who donated, and to St. Baldrick’s for tirelessly working towards a cure. Grow that hair, happy people. Then shave it. It’ll be the best thing you’ve done all year — maybe all your life.

Change the world for kids with cancer. Be a shavee℠.

Be a Shavee

Watch the video Jess made to document her head-shaving experience:

Read more shavee stories: