By Maddison Cervantes
How far would you go to support a good cause? For six University of Nevada, Reno students, shaving their heads was not enough when it came to supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Though, spending four nights in a tent outside of the Joe Crowley Student Union did the trick.
Since Saturday, March 28, these six students students have raised over $5,000, done away with their hair and embraced a four-day-long campout in Gateway Plaza.
The university hosted the campus’ first Up ‘til Dawn event to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude. Each participating team was required to raise a minimum of $600.
However, days before the night-long fundraiser, seniors Ziad Rashdan and Connor Blakeman, juniors Brian Kehoe and Drake Sacenti, Russell Richardson and sophomore Ryan Hood were approached by Up ‘til Dawn Director of Events and Logistics Cori Guidi, who challenged the team to raise $2,000 for St. Jude.
The members accepted the challenge, and came up with their team name, the Bald Barons. The group reached its goal of raising $2,000 in less than 24 hours. The team members’ heads were shaved during the Up ‘til Dawn event on Sunday, March 28.
“The very next day at school, I saw my fraternity brother, Lucas, and the first thing he said to me was that since he had known me, this was the first time that I actually looked my age,” Kehoe said.
Rashdan stated that because the team reached the goal of $2,000 in such a short amount of time, they realized that they had an opportunity to further their impact.
After the head shavings, the team continued to brainstorm ideas. The men felt that camping outside of the Joe would be an engaging opportunity with UNR students and other community officials.
While the Bald Barons’ temporary change in lifestyle was something to be adjusted to, Rashdan explained that the team’s efforts have been nonetheless fulfilling.
“Having to use the Joe as our main restroom, Lombardi as our shower and wanting to being able to sleep in our own beds can get difficult,” Rashdan said. “But then I just think, ‘This is how those kids feel every day,’ and it makes it all the more worthwhile.”
Kehoe and Hood both agree that camping out is a statement in itself, and it allowed the team to be personable with students and faculty who approached them throughout the week.
“Students were puzzled by the tent and came to speak to us,” Hood said. “This created an avenue to reach a huge portion of the student population and engage with them as we advocated for St. Jude.”
The Bald Barons spent the week prior to Up ‘til Dawn raising money for St. Jude. Throughout the week, the team had raised over $5,000.
While they still accepted donations through a GoFundMe account and cash donations in person, the week of their campout was solely intended to interact with and inform people of St. Jude’s cause.
After an interview from the team was aired on Channel 8’s morning newscast on Thursday, April 2, a man came to the their tent who had viewed the interview and wanted to support the Bald Barons’ cause. The man also donated $100.
“It’s been the most rewarding experience,” Kehoe said. “The man who donated to us this morning was so grateful and so honest about how appreciative he was for our camping out that it just changed the whole scenario from something that is fun to something that is really making a difference.”
A part of the Bald Barons’ success as promoters of St. Jude is thanks to BJ’s Hair Shop, according to Rashdan. The salon is popular among the Nevada Greeks, and they are involved in the university and have previously donated to causes such as Up ‘til Dawn.
The Bald Barons saw BJ’s history as being a potential asset to their cause and reached out to them for their support. Upon sharing their vision, BJ’s committed to becoming the team’s main sponsor and to shaving their heads.
As a way of showing thanks to BJ’s Hair Shop, the Bald Barons wore representing T-shirts and kept the salon’s sign on their tent throughout the week.
Despite the hardships of their fundraising efforts, the Bald Barons do not regret accepting the challenge to raise money and awareness for St. Jude.
Kehoe stated that although raising any more than $2,000 and camping out was never a part of the original plan, the team now believes that their efforts have created a model that can promote any sort of cause throughout campus life and other communities.
“None of us thought that it would become the movement that it became,” Kehoe said. “We went into [the event] thinking, ‘We are hopefully going to hit $2,000, and if we do, we’ll shave our heads.’ But because the amount was hit so fast and unexpectedly, we knew that we could do more, so here we are.”
Maddison Cervantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madcervantes.