47th Combat Support Hospital leads efforts to raise cancer research funding at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

By J.M. Simpson on March 9, 2015

There are 175,000 reasons to shave your head.

That number represents the children who are annually diagnosed with cancer. Their fight against this deadly disease is an uphill brawl; more children in this country die of cancer than any other disease.

Saturday afternoon in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord MWR Special Events Tent, several dozen soldiers, family members and friends dropped by to have their heads shaved.

St. Baldrick - a play on words if ever there was one - touched every head.

A nonprofit public charity, the St. Baldrick's Foundation is a childhood cancer charity funding research to help cures for children with cancer. 

The foundation's name is not associated with a recognized saint of the Catholic Church but is founded on word play and the use of the title "saint."

>>> Staff Sgt Gregory Pfaff, 18th Engineer Company, holds his son, Richard, as his head is shaved. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Speaking of the path to secular saintliness, volunteers, sponsored by family and friends, had their heads shaved in solidarity with children who typically lose their hair during cancer treatment.

Some women gave up eight to 10 inches of their hair, from which wigs would be made for children.

"We're here today to honor the sacrifices that embody the Army family," commented Sgt. 1st Class Madeline Diaz, a platoon leader in the 47th Combat Support Hospital and the event's organizer.

She had a point. Just before having her head shaved, Diaz told the audience that she would wrestle with cancer and the treatment it entails ... for the fourth time.

That statement brought the clippers and small crowd to a momentary halt.

After processing the comment, the barbers from the Olympia Barber and Esthetics School, who yielded their clippers like Samurai warriors, resumed their skin close shaving.

"This is no big deal," said Staff Sgt. Gregory Pfaff, 18th Engineer Company, as he held his son, Richard, and sat next to wife, Stephanie, as they too had their heads shaved. "Your hair grows back."

And so does the fight against childhood cancer.

Since 2000, St. Baldrick's Foundation volunteers have organized almost 4,200 head-shaving events and shaved more than 191,000 heads, raising more than $120 million for children cancer research.

"Our son, Freddy, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2," said Chief Warrant Officer Carlos Henao, 47th Combat Support Hospital, as he sat next to his wife, Joselyn.

With chemotherapy the little boy soon went bald, and Henao twice gave up his hair in solidarity with his son's fight, one that he eventually won.

"This event is really, truly amazing," Henao continued. "It is great that we come together like this for a wonderful cause."

For more information about the St. Baldrick's Foundation, visit www.stbaldricks.org.

>>> Veteran Michael Henderson has his head shaved in support of children battling cancer. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson