Trying to raise cancer awareness and a little bit of cash for the fight, the Gallagher Center at Niagara University was filled with the sounds of hair clippers Wednesday evening.
Senior communications major Vince Schiano has a passion for fighting the killer disease through action. As part of his honors thesis, Schiano brought some adventurous university students — five men and three women — on stage in the student union’s Multi-purpose Room and had them go bald.
It’s all part of his “Shave to Save” program designed to expose students to the grim realities of cancer support, not necessarily the disease itself.
“When someone’s diagnosed with cancer, it’s not the disease that causes hair loss,” Schiano said shortly after leading by example. “It’s the chemotherapy, it’s the radiation that does it.”
About 130 students and staff took in the events, tied into the university’s Ridge Fest celebration, and raised $7,200 through various fundraising methods.
Students like junior Vanessa Dunn, who recently lost her great aunt to cancer, surpassed $3,700 in less than one week after deciding to shave her head last week.
The money is being donated to the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a nonprofit based in Baltimore that specializes in young adult cancer patient support services. Through the fund, 83 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to funding support services for those who are diagnosed with cancer, specifically young adults between the ages of 15 and 39.
Schiano’s experiences with the Ulman Fund began last year when he rode a bicycle across the country raising money. That endeavor raised $7,100.
Schiano’s thesis was designed for him to research student attitudes on cancer and construct a public relations plan to raise awareness and support for the cause.
E.J. Giacomini, an Albany-area resident and sophomore communications major at NU, had his head shaved as part of the event. He said he did it in honor of a dear friend who passed away from cancer in October 2010.
“I call her my Mim,” Giacomini said. “When I was born, my parents worked. So she pretty much raised me. She was my second mom. When she died Oct. 6, 2010, I put a picture of me and her as the background on my phone. And every October and on her birthday in August, I go and visit her.”
In addition to Schiano, Giacomini and Dunn, the other Niagara University students who “shaved to save” were Clarence Farnham, Andrew Uttaro, Christina Gugliuzza, Scott Lindell and Katie Hamilton.
It was an incredible evening, one that elicited a range of emotions, but especially courage, sadness and pride.
Added Dunn, “I just can’t believe the support that I’ve received from so many people here. I’ve never been so proud to be a Purple Eagle.”