North Dakota Nice: Brave the Shave

If you think one small act can’t make a big difference, then you haven’t heard about Brave the Shave.  In 2008, a small group of Basin Electric employees decided they wanted to shave five heads to raise $10,000 to fight childhood cancer.  Today, over 2,200 volunteers have raised over $3 million shaving their heads to help North Dakota kids focus on getting well.  The fantastic Randi Oothoudt, event organizer with Brave the Shave, has kindly offered to tell us a bit more about how the organization is shaving the world, one family at a time:

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What was the impetus for creating Brave the Shave?  

A few men who worked at Basin Electric wanted to raise money for pediatric cancer research. That was 12 years ago. They set a goal of $10,000 and met that. The next year, they raised it and again met their goal. Year after year, Brave the Shave has continued to grow, and now we have become our own separate 501(3)(c), and have set up a family fund to support North Dakota families affected by pediatric cancer. We are not a local chapter of a national organization; we are based in North Dakota and we served families within the North Dakota border.

Our driving force is our honorees. We’ve seen how cancer affects the child, the siblings and the entire families. We want to lessen their burden and act as “a break in the rain” or “a light during the darkness.”

Your big annual event is on right now.  How many people are shaving their heads? And how many families are you supporting?

As of two days before our largest event, we have 380 people signed up to shave and more are registering each day. After all 12 of our events are finished, we will likely have shaved 450-500 heads. We have 96 families that we serve. Of those, about 35-40 are currently in active treatment.

Your first event was in 2008.  What are you most proud of related to your events?

We’ve been able to create an event that makes children feel as though they are not alone, and that having a bald head does not make them different. We want our honorees to feel special in a positive way and praise them for the bravery they show in the face of a very difficult situation.

What are you most proud of related to Brave the Shave overall?

The formation of a family fund. At the beginning, all money went to research, but we weren’t helping the children closest to us. Now we can definitively say that we are making a difference here in North Dakota. We’ve had families tell us that Brave the Shave helped them from losing their home. We’ve provided money for gas so that children can get to treatment. And we’ve lessened the burden and hardships felt by entire families when their child is diagnosed with cancer.

You are both local and national.  How do you balance both in your work?

We are local in that we support North Dakota families. We are national in terms of research. Our research arm partners with the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, which works with the Children’s Oncology Group to determine research trials with the most potential. Joe McDonough from the B+ Foundation runs an outstanding organization and had already developed the connections with the top researchers, so we felt that a partnership with them would be the most effective way to achieve successful research.

How can North Dakotans help Brave the Shave?

We would like to have more events but need the manpower. If you have an idea for an event, it can be held anywhere. We even have a teacher in Virginia who is shaving this year and getting her students involved. Events do not have to be about shaving, either. We have some events coming up that we’re very excited about that have nothing to do with shaving. Legacy High School is hosting a 5K run/walk. There will be a motorcycle run this summer, and we had a Onesie Crawl this spring. We’re open to fundraising ideas and are available for support.

How can volunteers and families get connected to you?

You can learn more about our organization on our website, and we usually respond to emails and instant messages sent through the site pretty quickly. You can also receive updates about our honorees and events by liking our our Facebook page.

[From Amanda: You can meet some of their amazing kids by clicking here, and donate directly to Brave the Shave by clicking here.]

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