Shaving off a new world record - for a cause
Over 350 people shave their heads for cancer fundraiser
A team of hair stylists snipped a Guinness World Record on Sunday, raising money for a cancer fundraiser in the process.
Ten stylists from Roots Hair Salon in Milwaukee shaved 361 heads in 60 minutes, breaking the previous world record of 316, set in Ireland in 2011. Hundreds of volunteers gathered at the Brookfield Soccer Complex as adults and children went under the razor, but the haircuts represented more than just a new world record.
The event was inspired by 2-year-old Haven Anderson, who was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma in April. Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nervous tissue that started in Haven's adrenal gland and has metastasized to her spinal cord and chest.
A toddler's strength
Haven's mother, Erin Anderson, attended the event, greeting and thanking volunteers with a bright smile as they arrived.
Recalling the day she learned of Haven's diagnosis, Anderson said, "I was in disbelief and devastation, not ever thinking that my child could have cancer."
Anderson wore a shirt bearing her daughter's smiling face, her bald head symbolizing the amazing strength of a toddler battling cancer.
"Haven doesn't know what's going on. She takes every day as any 2-year-old would," Anderson said. "When she doesn't feel good, she lays around and is sick and when she does feel good, she's up running around having a ball with her brothers. She doesn't let it mentally get to her."
Originally from Milwaukee, Anderson teaches high school biology in Denver. Twenty-two teachers and staff at her school shaved their heads at a previous Shavin' for Haven event and raised over $22,000.
Community pulls together
A Whitnall High School graduate, Anderson remained friends with a few of her classmates who organized a larger fundraiser as Haven's illness progressed.
Shannon Lopez and Naomi Prusinski, both graduates of Whitnall High and owners of Roots Salon, coordinated the World Record Shave. Both women have been friends with Anderson for over 20 years.
Describing the coordination effort, Lopez said, "A friend of mine did a Guinness World Record as part of a fundraiser, so I looked up world record shave and saw the record for most heads shaved in an hour, so I called my partner Naomi and asked if she thought we could do this, and she said yes."
Beth Lukomski of Milwaukee, also a high school friend of Anderson's, shaved her shoulder-length hair Sunday.
"I'm a mom now and I can't imagine what those kids and families go through. I might be a little uncomfortable and I may feel naked after my haircut, but it can't feel anything like what those kids and families go through," Lukomski said before the cut.
Strangers help, too
Not all of the support Sunday came from Anderson's close friends.
Chris Watt, 13, of Milwaukee didn't know Erin or Haven, but he still shaved his head as a sign of support.
"I felt bad when I first heard about the story, so I just tried to help out the best way I could," Watt said.
Watt also collected $159 fundraising at his mother's job.
Local businesses also pitched in, donating supplies for the event. Andis Clipper Company of Racine sponsored the event and donated all of the clippers used by the stylists.
Eggers Imprints of Brown Deer donated more than 400 T-shirts designed specifically for the event. Dan Eggers, owner of Eggers Imprints, said his company has worked with various charities and didn't hesitate to get involved with this one.
"We've worked with Shannon through Roots Salon for the past year with different apparel and different charities she's worked with," Eggers said. "She's a great person; this is fabulous."
Dan Eggers and four Eggers employees also shaved their heads.
Next Steps for Haven
Anderson and her family are flying to San Francisco in November to continue Haven's treatment.
"She relapsed two weeks ago, so it's time to start looking into experimental treatments," Anderson said. "The chances of survival are 35 to 40 percent. With new treatments that are occurring every day, some of those numbers have jumped up for five-year survival rates."
Anderson plans to remain positive and is grateful for the support flowing from the community.
"This just says that in humans, you have to believe in the good. These are all wonderful people that want to do something for pediatric cancer research. This is incredible.
Lopez's eyes swelled with tears as she watched the volunteers, many of whom were strangers, line up for registration. "I think the most amazing part of this experience for me is that it took tears of sadness and turned them into tears of joy."
Registration for the event was $25, with all proceeds going to Haven's care and CureSearch, a childhood cancer foundation.
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