Charlie Muth has lost her hair twice and this fall the 14-year-old will lose it once more – but this time for a different reason.
When Muth was in kindergarten, she was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes that left the child enduring surgery and years of chemotherapy treatments.
Like many childhood cancer patients forced to spend more time in a hospital room than a playground, Muth began making summer visits to Camp Goodtimes, a camp for kids with cancer.
Nearly 10 years later and cancer-free, Muth continues to return to Goodtimes, where she has a familial bond with the campers.
“You look around and see all the little kids who are bald and they just have the biggest smiles on their faces,” she said of the camp, which is supported by Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
This summer, before entering Grade 10 at Reynolds secondary, Muth mulled over joining the group of students and staff at the school who each year shave their heads to raise cash for pediatric cancer research and the camp.
Then, in a moment at the camp dance, she made up her mind.
“There was a little bald boy in the corner sitting alone, so me and my friends went and danced with him and the smile it brought to his face – I was sure I was going to shave (my head) then. Seeing a little kid bald and shy really touched me.”
In less than a week, Muth had collected nearly $1,000 in donations for the Canadian Cancer Society, and on Thursday, she will be one of more than 100 students and staff at the school to say goodbye to their hair.
“For many of the girls, it’s emotional and powerful and there are tears,” said Reynolds teacher Dean Norris-Jones. “But it’s a healthy risk. If you’re a teenaged girl (with a shaved head) you’re not the only one in the building. There are dozens of teenaged girls who shave their heads because they understand the metaphor.”
Norris-Jones, a cancer survivor himself, was the first to suggest to principal Alana Charlton that the school join the fundraising campaign.
“Every year we get stronger and it seems to become more integral to the identity of the school,” he said.
Reynolds has participated in the event for eight years, with the dollar amount the school hands over to the Canadian Cancer Society rising each year, from $16,000 in the first year to $84,000 in 2011.
The bulk of the funds are a result of pledges for head shaving, but every year the almost entirely student-led initiative includes an array of bake sales, car washes and bottle drives in an intense two-week campaign.
“As if by magic, all kinds of spontaneous student fundraisers start happening,” Norris-Jones said. “Students at Reynolds recognize that they have a moral mandate to make the world a better place and the concept of service is a part of being a Reynolds citizen.”
Some of those citizens were unaware of Muth’s past, but since hearing her story have been swept into the culture. Seven of her friends have stepped up to shave their heads.
“A lot of them didn’t know that I had cancer. So for them to see a perfectly healthy kid in the hallways, then to know that I’ve battled one of the worst diseases, knowing that I’ve been through so much and I’m so tough – they realized how inspiring it was to have gone through that and to be so strong now.”
Don’t forget to enter the draw for a $500 Thrifty Foods gift card at bclocalnews.com/tour-de-rock.
Join the Tour de Rock team in the final leg of their 1,100 km bike ride down the Island when they arrive in Victoria this week.
Wednesday, Oct. 3
Tour de Rock Gala at Westin Bear Mountain, 6:30 until 9:30 p.m. Oct. 3. Tickets $75. For more information, contact Donna Fraser at 250-590-6713.
Thursday, Oct. 4
Barbecue and head shaves in Sidney at Beacon Park, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 5
Esquimalt Plaza, 9 to 11 a.m., with the team’s arrival slated for 9:20 a.m.
Coast Capital Savings, Tillicum Centre 10 a.m.
Tour de Rock finale, Centennial Square 4 to 7 p.m.