They're pretty fantastic. They sponsor studies to find a cure and help families that need help with medical treatment. It doesn't get much better than that. —Aaron Wignall
SALT LAKE CITY — Michelle Roberts was hoping people would pay to see her head shaved. The money, not meant for her own use, is intended to increase awareness and research of childhood cancer.
"I've always had long hair," Roberts said, adding that she was nervous for the new 'do and would only cut it for a "good cause."
That cause was St. Baldrick's Foundation, which paid a visit to Salt Lake Community College on Monday, shaving the heads of anyone interested in helping the organization raise funds for research.
"Life is full of sacrifices, and it's not like I'm giving an arm and a leg. This is hair. It grows back," said Maziar Nourian.
A medical student who is blessed with good hair-growing genes, Nourian plans to make the charitable effort a regular thing throughout his life.
He was able to gather more than $200 for the event, contributing to St. Baldrick's goal of $5,000 for the day.
"It's just respecting people who have gone through something similar to this, even though we'll never know fully what it is like to have chemotherapy or to have a certain malignant type of cancer," Nourian said. "It's something friends and family can do … to sympathize."
More children die of cancer in the United States than from any other disease, according to Baldrick's. It is predicted that one in 300 boys and one in 333 girls in the country will have cancer before reaching age 20.
Research and medical advancements since the 1950s have led professionals to help save the lives of about 85 percent of kids with the most common types of cancer. For the others, progress is limited.
Baldrick's raised more than $33 million for research last year, 82 percent of which went to childhood cancer research, according to the foundation's website. The majority of fundraising comes from head-shaving events throughout the country. More than 1,200 head-shaving events were held at businesses, restaurants, schools, churches, parks, malls and houses in 2012.
A March event in Provo this year yielded more than $5,000, with 27 participants opting to shave their heads.
Participants such as Roberts and Nourian are asked to solicit friends, family and perfect strangers for money prior to getting their heads shaved, hoping to make an impact.
Nourian said it would be impossible to not take notice of his now-bald head, which held nearly a foot of thick, black hair prior to Monday's event.
"It's a pretty visible statement to others," he said.
Volunteers from area cosmetology schools typically provide the barber service for the events, and students from the local Taylor Andrews Academy were on hand Monday with their electric clippers.
Aaron Wignall would have typically cut his hair in February but grew it longer to have more of an impact after Monday's shave. He dons a small pin that reads, "Ask me why I'm bald," which helps to start the conversation when asking for donations or spreading the word about St. Baldrick's Foundation.
It was the third time Wignall has given up his locks for the foundation. He seeks out head-shaving events online at www.StBaldricks.org. The website also collects donations from the public throughout the year.
Though Wignall doesn't personally know any children with cancer, he said Baldrick's is a "class organization" that helped a former co-worker's family with medical treatment costs years ago. It is estimated that the little girl, who had a rare form of cancer, lived three years longer than was originally diagnosed because of the additional therapy, he said.
"They're pretty fantastic. They sponsor studies to find a cure and help families that need help with medical treatment," said Wignall, an IT risk analyst from Murray "It doesn't get much better than that."
For different reasons than most, he's now hoping for warmer temperatures in northern Utah.
"It's a bit chilly out, and now that I don't have hair, my head gets cold," Wignall said.