St. Baldrick’s fundraiser aims to fight cancer

UIC staff, students, patients and volunteers shaved their heads Feb. 16 to raise funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports pediatric cancer research. The annual fundraiser, hosted by the Children’s Hospital University of Illinois, raised more than $15,000 this year.

Mary Lou Schmidt, associate professor in the UIC College of Medicine and pediatric oncologist at UI Health, said that the money raised will fund research projects across the nation, including significant grants returned to UIC.

“Over the last decade, our pediatric oncology group, which also includes Rush and Stroger hospitals, has enrolled more than 600 patients into clinical trials and have benefited from more than $1.5 million in grant funding,” Schmidt said.

“In many ways, childhood cancer can be much more complex than adult cancer,” said Schmidt, who notes that kids tend to have later-stage cancers and that treatment is complicated by the fact that children are still growing and developing.

Officer Terry Williams was among four UIC police officers who volunteered to go bald.

“I saw the event last year and I knew I wanted to do something more this year,” Williams said. “Our police department set up our own group, and even those who didn’t shave their head got involved by donating.”

In addition to the money raised online, UIC Police surprised event organizers with an impromptu cash donation collected during their morning roll call.

Hilda Diaz, a UIC student and cancer survivor, shaved pediatric nurse Jocelyn Mallard’s head. When Diaz was a patient at UI Health, Mallard was her nurse.

“I’ve been growing my locks for 12 years,” said Mallard, a top fundraiser. “I see cancer patients every day and it was time that I did something to give back and to encourage other people.”

Lindsay Cousins, child life specialist at UI Health and event organizer, said that many of the volunteers are regular participants — like James Kelly, another top fundraiser from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research — who volunteer to shave their heads every year in honor of a loved one.