A group of students supporting the cause at Burchette's (center) fundraising event. Photo courtesy of Marissa Burchette
A group of students supporting the cause at Burchette’s (center) fundraising event. Photo courtesy of Marissa Burchette

Marissa Burchette may seem like a typical college junior, double majoring in biology and psychology and striving to be a doctor, but at first sight you will notice one thing, she is bald.

Some people may be shocked that someone would choose to cut off over two feet of hair, but Burchette found a cause she was passionate about and put together a St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an organization based out of California that raises money for childhood cancer research. The group funds the most childhood cancer research grants than any other organization. The events this organization holds are all volunteer based. At these events, people voluntarily have their heads shaved.

A few summers ago, Burchette was attending a program at Duke University where she shadowed doctors. The day that she shadowed a doctor in the pediatric ICU took an emotional toll on her. It was, “nothing like you would see on television” she said. The doctors had said how some of the kid’s parents have abandoned the children. Seeing these kids who are so sick and helpless was an eye opening experience for her.

Burchette first got the idea to host a St. Baldrick’s head shaving event back in April, when she and a friend attended a Charlotte Checkers game. She noticed a table with a girl seated behind it who was bald. This piqued her curiosity, so she went up and talked to the girl.

The girl at the table said that she had hosted a St. Baldrick’s head shaving event, and some of the Checkers players had come to shave their heads. Burchette thought it was an awesome idea, so she in turn looked into hosting her own event.

Her idea finally turned into a reality in September, when Burchette hosted her very own event in UNC Charlotte’s Cone Center, where she shaved her head.

Food was donated by Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE), a professional sorority, Psychology Student Coalition and Phi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. There were also games such as Cornhole. Over 80 people showed up, including students and professors.

Burchette was even able to provide live entertainment. She posted an ad on Craigslist, listing that she was hosting this event and was looking for local talent. Megan Flechaus, a local Charlotte artist, replied and came to perform at Burchette’s St. Baldrick’s event.

Burchette was one of 13 people who shaved their heads at the event. She was happy that there were two other girls who shaved their heads along with her so that she wasn’t alone in cutting off feet of hair.

After she shaved her head, Burchette regularly donned a scarf over her head, and began noticing people were being nicer to her. She got compliments on her head scarf, people held doors open for her and she even got free food from McDonalds one time. She said that she thought these things happened because people probably assumed she had cancer.

“It is good to know that there are people out there in humanity who still care enough for people,” Burchette said. It was different from what she was used to, and people stared, but she didn’t mind because she felt she was getting a point across.

“There is nothing I get in exchange for helping these kids who can’t grow hair,” Burchette said. “Hair grows back, kids don’t.”

Burchette wants to host a St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser every year on campus. It’s a lot of work to put together with the help of only a few people, but she hopes to get a group of students interested to help plan the event every year. On other college campuses, events like these grow bigger and bigger every year. Burchette is dedicated to the cause and plans to get even more people involved in coming years.