Shaving Grace

Men’s Rugby players cut their hair to grow funds for childhood cancer research on Thursday, March 14. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation encourages friends and family to host head-shaving events to fill in the gaps left by government foundations, which support more research for adult cancers, according to

St. Baldrick’s was an idea started in 1999 by three colleagues in the reinsurance industry. They hosted the first head-shaving event on March 17, 2000 and raised $104, 000 for the Children’s Oncology Group. After the organization became an independent foundation in 2004, thousands of head shaving events took place throughout the U.S.

NPRFC President Dean Hottum wanted to bring the spirit of giving back to his club and knew that this event was hosted by the rugby team in 2006. After the players created individual profiles on the foundation’s website, they joined a group page to pool their money together.

“I think it’s just a really great cause,” Hottum said. “I mean the head shaving, it’s just a fun part of the event, but [we raised] $8,000 and we don’t keep any of that money, 100 percent goes toward the foundation. It’s nice that we can give back.”

A group of men huddled around a white tent on the turf field at 2 p.m. In groups of two, the players peeled off their sweatshirts and jackets and sat in lawn chairs while barbers shaved their heads.

Co-captain Joe Kruk ran his hands across his head once he left the chair and a look of surprise registered on his face.

“I was definitely a little shocked once I put my hands up to my scalp and realized that it was all gone, but I also felt a sense of pride knowing that we did this for such a good cause,” Kruk said. “It certainly made it an easier transition knowing that we’ll be able to further spread the word about St. Baldrick’s just by walking around campus.”

Third-year lock/second row Jake Coulter said the event was important “to show solidarity with kids who are fighting cancer and to just raise money with the rugby team.”

Hottum said after counting the cash, checks and money raised online, the rugby team collected $8,123.66 for childhood cancer research. The event alone brought in $895.66. The team’s initial goal was $1,000. Kruk credits the players’ tenacity for exceeding all expectations.

“It feels wonderful to be able to give the foundation so much more than we had originally hoped,” Kruk said. “We were not really sure what to expect for our first annual event so we set what we thought would be an achievable yet worthwhile goal. Our guys really stepped up and spread the word around to family and friends about the cause and donations started pouring in.”

Second-year hooker/flanker Sean McCarthy raised $1,425 by posting a link to his page on Facebook and through email. His parents also sent the link to their friends and colleagues.

“It just seemed like a great cause and why not go all out if I can,” McCarthy said.

Third-year flanker Chris Tompkins said the event allowed the team to give rather than take.

“I think it’s good for our team, good for our community, good for the school, just to do something to give back rather than just taking school money, rather than taking the uniforms, rather than taking the school buses. It’s our way of showing the community that we care about something greater than just rugby,” Tompkins said.

Fourth-year elementary education major Christine Riolo has also raised money for childhood cancer research with her sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi. She said she was happy to see the team participate in this event because she has seen what charity events can accomplish.

“You never know what little help can do for us,” Riolo said. “We’ve been raising money for pediatric AIDS with my organization and we actually just found out that they cured a 2-year-old girl, so you never know how little can actually help.”

Two months ago, first-year wing Nicholas Kaiser announced to the team that he was diagnosed with leukemia from the ages of 2 to 6. Kaiser said his story gave the players more awareness about childhood cancer and more motivation to put on a successful event. The event allowed Kaiser to see the effect these funds have on the children’s well-being, he said.

“They were very surprised when I told them,” Kaiser said. “You get to see how that money is going to help lots of kids, like what I had, help them get through what they are going through.”

Kruk said Kasier’s experience made the event more meaningful and important to host.

The team sported their new look on the field as they played a rugby game to entertain the crowd. Hottum said the game was also a good way to introduce people to the sport.

“We figured having an event where we just cut our hair would be kind of stale so we needed to supplement that with some kind of entertainment,” Hottum said. “And the other part of it is, we have all of these people here and most people on campus don’t really know much about rugby so it would be a cool way to introduce people.”

Kruk said foundations like St. Baldrick’s are crucial to the fight against cancer and realizes that fundraising events like the one hosted at SUNY New Paltz can greatly impact the outcome of that fight.

“Organizations like St. Baldrick’s have dramatically raised the survival rate of those who are plagued by childhood cancers,” Kruk said. “With more research, it may be possible to raise the survival rates higher or perhaps even find cures for these diseases. But naturally, none of this can happen without proper funding, which is where groups like our team can come through and really make a difference.”