Dr Battinelli (right) has his head shaved by Richard Rubenstein (centre), owner of HX Salon, in solidarity with children with childhood cancer. Battinelli was cheered on by members of the Hofstra/Northwell community, such as Taylor Valerio (left). // Photo courtesy of Antonio Giammarino Jr.
TW: Childhood cancer
On March 1, the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University/Northwell Health held its annual fundraiser, St. Baldrick’s Day.
For the past 10 years, the Zucker School of Medicine has partnered with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to raise funds for childhood cancer research, treatment and family support. St. Baldricks is also the largest non-governmental funder of childhood cancer research in the world, according to Georgia Linaris, student leadership and engagement coordinator for the Office of Student Affairs at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medical.
“It’s something that was brought to the Hofstra campus by the roller hockey team,” Linaris said. “For two years they have not hosted because of COVID-19. And we have maintained this tradition.
Throughout February, the medical school held numerous fundraisers consisting of sales, parking lot raffles, and Venmo donations. Over the past 10 years, the school has raised over $100,000. This year, with the support of staff, students, Northwell Health members and national donations, the school raised more than $42,000.
St. Baldrick’s Day gave students and staff the opportunity to shave their heads or cut their ponytails in solidarity with those with childhood cancer. The event was organized with the help of three employees of HX Salon, a hair salon in Hofstra.
“It’s very important that as a business, especially with hair, [that we] give back,” said Richard Rubenstein, owner of HX Salon.
Rubenstein said being included in the haircut ceremony was “exhilarating because you take someone’s hair out of long hair and you completely buzz their hair and you know that person is doing it by love and for [their] dedication to help[ing] children.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drop in donations for cancer research, the closure of hair salons and pandemic closures have given volunteers time to grow their hair. The shaved hair will go to the organization Children with Hair Loss which creates pediatric wigs for pediatric cancer patients.
First-year medical student Johnathan Carboni decided to shave his head because he wants to become a pediatrician and work with children with cancer.
“It was very powerful to sit there knowing that I was working for this incredible cause,” Carboni said.
The students enjoyed the learning experience as it allowed them to connect with their patients and gave them insight into how they can advance in the medical field as future physicians.
“It really marked me as a future doctor. It’s the type of event that shows how much we can do for our patients and not just in the office, but outside, how we support them and how we can learn about their struggles,” Lisa said. Ramirez, a first-year medical student and chair of the community service committee that helped organize the event. “We are truly there for them in every aspect of their journey, no matter what they are going through.”
During the ceremony, Dr. David Battinelli, associate dean of the Zucker School of Medicine, and Betsey Cushing Whitney, professor of medicine, received a medal in honor of raising more than $38,000. This year, Battinelli has pledged to “go bald for St. Baldricks” to honor the children.
“The event provides support not only [in] the [form of] research, but also the concept [of] shaving [to show] support and empathy for children,” Battinelli said. “No child should have to go through this more than once.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hofstra undergraduates were unable to participate in this event, according to Linaris.
“We had other fundraisers at the main Hofstra campus,” Linaris said. “It was our opportunity to connect the three parts of [Hofstra].”
Sergio Alarcon, a Hofstra employee who raised funds on the main campus, donated more than eight inches of his hair.
“My hair will bring happiness to a hairless child because they lost it to cancer and [I have] family members [who have] died of cancer,” Alarcon said. “I want to have a purpose for letting my hair grow out and at least I’m giving it.”
St. Baldrick’s fundraiser will continue to accept donations through December 31 on the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine homepage at Hofstra/Northwell, where volunteers can share the team page with family and friends to help reach the fundraising goal.