Students donate hair, raise funds for research at Relay for Life

At Relay for Life on Saturday April 14, freshman Michelle Graham, sophomore Chloe Fernandez and senior Kelli Connolly performed what, for many girls, may seem like an unfathomable feat. Each stepped up to have her head shaved – voluntarily parting with her hair to aid those who have lost theirs.

Through Relay, the American Cancer Society raises money for medical research and honors cancer patients and those who lost their battle to the disease. Geneseo’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer hosts Relay every year, this year in the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena.

Graham participated in Relay through Team RLK but contributed to “Bald for Bucks” separately. She arranged to have her head shaved because the money she raised would go to the same cause. “I’ve always wanted to shave my head,” Graham said. “I think that in general girls often hide behind their hair; they find it as a source of confidence, and I felt that if I shaved it off I would have to find confidence elsewhere.”

Graham said that she was inspired to achieve her goal when she saw male students going “Bald for Bucks” in the College Union on April 4.

“At that moment I was about to [shave my head], but I decided I wanted to raise more than just walking around with change,” Graham said.

She ended up raising $600. Graham said her inspiration to be a part of Relay also came from the loss of her brother’s fiancé to spinal cancer in April 2011.

Fernandez, who donated 15 inches of hair to cancer patients, said the decision to have her head shaved was spontaneous. She said that she made the decision not before, but during Relay for Life, which she participated in through her sorority Phi Lambda Chi.

“I ran around the gym like a crazy person asking people to donate [so that I could have my head shaved],” she said.

Through only her petitions for donations at Relay for Life, Fernandez raised a total of $213.

“Both of my grandparents have cancer so I was keeping that in the back of my mind the whole time and I was … remembering when my grandma’s hair fell out and stuff like that,” Fernandez said. “I was just happy that someone could have my hair.”

Connolly had been thinking of shaving her head since last year’s Relay for Life. When she mentioned it to friends, Connolly said people sometimes were “enraged.”

“Those reactions – the negative ones – made me want to do it more,” she said.

Connolly donated 10 inches of hair and almost $800 to cancer patients.

“My grandma has had several different kinds of cancer and my uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer last year,” Connolly said. “It’s not just for one person though, it’s for everyone.”