The Transylvania Times -

Community Joins Effort To Combat Childhood Cancer – Transylvania County, NC


Last updated 9/18/2020 at 12:05pm

McKayla Chambers had her long hair cut for the cause.

Barbary Ritchey knew she was destined to work with the St. Baldrick's Foundation of Transylvania County.

When her 12-year-old daughter, Becky, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in August 1996, her family was stationed at Minot Air Force Base in Minot, N.D.

Jim Harris, a senior airman at the base, and who had worked with Barbara, herself a master sergeant, told Becky that if she lost her hair from the treatment, he would shave his head.

When Becky inevitably lost her hair, he stayed true to his word and shaved it all off three months after Becky's diagnosis.

The St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity that began in 2000 to raise money to donate to support the development of childhood cancer treatments, had not yet come into existence.

"I look back and that was such a huge moment," Ritchey recalls. "Here is this 12-year-old girl who just lost her hair, and this airman had his hair shaved in front of hundreds of people at the base's theater."

Today, Becky is 36 and is lifelong friends with Jim.

"They didn't know if she would make it, and they also said she would never have kids, but she has a little 4 year old now," she said. "That's why we are just really passionate about the cause."

The St. Baldrick's Foundation has grown into the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, and Ritchey, who held her own 3rd annual head-shaving event on Saturday at 185 King Street, said $1,300 was raised.

Since it began, the St. Baldrick's Foundation has held over 14,000 events, and more than 560,000 shaves have taken place.

The head shaving itself is to "show solidarity with kids who lost their hair when they have cancer treatment."

According to the foundation, every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer.

Before they turn 20, about one in 285 children in the U.S. will have cancer.

Childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S.

What If I'm Already Bald?

The St. Baldrick's Foundation holds plenty of other events, such as bake sales and sporting competitions, like the Rockin' Bowl bowling competition.

Then there is the most acclaimed event, "Get Buzzed at the Brewery," which wouldn't be possible without Josh Chambers, owner of Ecusta Brewing, and the support of Brevard Rotary.

How it Works

"Normally, what people do is they raise funds throughout the year of the event to shave their head," she said. "Then this year was so crazy that we did some virtual shaves, and a couple of people shaved at home."

As people trickled in Saturday on an average, rainy Transylvania County afternoon, Katelyn Gardner, cosmetologist at Attitudes Hair & Nail Salon on Jordan Street, had her clippers ready on stand-by.

The above newspaper story from 1996 tells of Airman Jim Harris having his head shaved as a sign of support for Ritchey's daughter, Becky.

McKayla Chambers, daughter of Josh and Shanna, had her hair cut and the hair donated to Wigs for Kids, a cooperative effort organization among Certified Cosmetic Therapists throughout North America who share the common goal of crafting wigs for children who lost their hair during cancer treatment, and supports the St. Baldrick's Foundation, as well.

Lee Hines, Mike Meade, Trey Foster and Cory Noble were among the others who turned out.

Perhaps the person with the most hair to lose was Kate Renner, whose daughter was not exactly ecstatic to see her mom's hair fall to the ground.

"I chose to be a shave for multiple reasons, the biggest being a nod to one of my nephew's life lessons: to always choose kindness," Renner said. "While I may have been the shavee, the kindness so many others showed as donations to the cause are acts he would have been so inspired by. May we all choose kindness, always."

For more information, or to sign up, call Barbara Ritchey at (803) 464-1951, visit the page on Facebook, email [email protected], or sign up on the events page,


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