This year’s kickoff event for Brave the Shave’s 10th year will leave you feeling like you’re faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound – no matter how old you are.
The Brave the Shave Boot Camp is right around the corner, and will no doubt be fun for the whole family. This superhero-themed boot camp to benefit Brave the Shave’s “super kids” will offer an awesome obstacle course for kids of all ages on one side of the gym, and adults will be able to get their sweat on with a high-intensity boot camp on the other side.
Brave the Shave is featured in the March/April issue of BismarckMagazine, which hit the stands March 1. The article, “Helping kids fight cancer one shaved head at a time” tells the story of one of our brave honorees, 11-year-old Zakkry Arenz, who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, the most common type of brain tumor in children, in January 2016.
Jiry Rosecrans, is a sweet, well-spoken, positive 11-year-old girl. She loves volleyball, figure skating, arts and crafts, and math.
Nearly two years ago, Jiry was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor that develops before a child is even born. “I knew there was something wrong from birth until she was diagnosed,” says Jiry’s mom, Bridget. “She had lots of medical problems – vision issues, headaches, strange pains in her body, flashes of light … but nobody could figure out what it was.”
They finally found the answer on May 4, 2015. Bridget says it has been a whirlwind ever since, with a brain surgery soon after diagnosis and treatments that have required them to spend extended periods of time away from home. One of the treatments was a nine-week stint in a hyperbaric chamber at Mayo Clinic, done because Jiry was going blind. This 100 percent oxygen-filled chamber forces oxygen into the bloodstream to promote healing. “It saved my eyesight,” Jiry says.
In addition to the treatments, staying in motels and eating in hospital cafeterias and restaurants for four, six, and nine weeks at a time really puts a financial strain on a family. And sometimes, when you think nothing else can go wrong, it does. “When we were at Mayo for one of Jiry’s treatments, I ran over a nail and it got into the sidewall of my tire,” Bridget says. “I was wondering how in the world I was going to pay for these new tires, because the person at the repair shop told me I had to buy all four or it would ruin the transmission.”
Then Brave the Shave stepped in. “They called and said, ‘Go get those tires. We want to make sure you get to Jiry’s treatments safely,’” Bridget says. “Brave the Shave has also helped us with motel stays and gas cards. I can’t even begin to say how much it has helped us. It allows us to focus on our child rather than sitting at the table trying to figure out how we’re going to scramble up enough money to get to the next doctor appointment or figure out how we’re going to pay for the next nine-week motel stay. Brave the Shave has truly been a Godsend for our family.”
In addition to creating “Team Jiry” to participate in the head-shaving festivities, she will also be bringing several containers filled with change to the event. She and fellow honoree, 8-year-old John Freer, have placed the containers in businesses across their hometown of Langdon, ND, encouraging patrons to drop in their spare change to support Brave the Shave and its efforts to fight childhood cancer through family support and research.
She is also encouraging people, whether they attend the event or not, to donate their hair to Children with Hair Loss, an organization that provides wigs to children dealing with medical-related hair loss at no charge. This is a cause near and dear to Jiry’s heart, and she donated her own hair several times prior to her own diagnosis.
Jiry and Bridget are looking forward to attending Brave the Shave’s flagship event in Bismarck on March 10, and they invite you to come, too.
Nothing is stronger than the power of kids helping kids. This year, Brave the Shave is showing this in a series of videos featuring siblings who are shaving their heads in honor of their brother or sister fighting the battle of their lives – pediatric cancer.
The series kicks off with Nathan Oothoudt, 11-year-old big brother to 4-year-old Brave the Shave honoree, Cullen. Nathan will be shaving his head at this year’s flagship event on March 10.
“Cully,” as he is affectionately known to his family and friends, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in November 2015. After surgery in Fargo and proton radiation and chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic, the Oothoudt family found out in September that Cully is relapsing, and recent scans showed significant tumor growth. He is currently receiving a new type of chemotherapy and homeopathic remedies.
“Cully is a special kid, really kindhearted,” says his dad, Scott. “It’s amazing how positive he is. He doesn’t complain about anything. He’s very strong, happy-go-lucky, and loves his brothers and sisters.”
And they love him. Nathan said one of the main reasons he decided to shave his head was so his little brother could have fun cutting his hair off with the clippers. Check out the video to see what else Cully and Nathan do when they’re together, and be sure to check out their Brave the Shave team, “Cully’s Crew Cuts.”
Fourteen-year-old Hunter Seifert is a pretty typical freshman boy, says his mom, Julie. He likes to golf, he’s a fast runner (although he doesn’t like to run), play video games, and play football.
When Hunter didn’t feel well this past fall and was increasingly tired, Julie, and his dad, Dan, thought he had a bug – maybe mono or something like it. When he all of a sudden couldn’t run down the football field and told them he didn’t think he could even stand through a game, they took him to the doctor.
“We were told at seven ‘o clock that evening that there was something seriously wrong, and by the next day we were on our way to the children’s hospital in Minneapolis,” Julie says. “We got the news a couple days later.” The news? Hunter had Stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that forms in the body’s soft tissues, such as muscle and connective tissue. Like Hunter, most cases of this type of cancer are found in adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. Julie says that tumors have pretty much invaded his body – they’re on his lungs, pelvis, kidneys, stomach area, and back.
“I didn’t even know Brave the Shave existed until we were thrown into this situation, and then they were there right away,” Julie says. While the Seiferts were still in Minneapolis right after Hunter’s diagnosis, Brave the Shave sent a cleaning service to their house to do a deep cleaning. It also sent a company to clean the house’s duct work. Both services are something the Brave the Shave Family Fund does for all its honoree families to help get the germs out of the house, because cancer patients have compromised immune systems.
“When your child is first diagnosed with cancer, you don’t know what to do or where to turn – you’re kind of in a fog,” Dan says. “But then Brave the Shave shows up and helps you with your mortgage or car payment so you can buy your kids Christmas presents, or gets your son an iPad to help make chemo treatments a little easier for him. It allows you to take a deep breath and relax. They make life a lot easier.”
In addition to the family fund, money raised during Brave the Shave events also goes to to the Andrew McDonough Be Positive (B+) Foundation to support pediatric cancer research, a cause that is near and dear to Julie’s heart. “As the mother of a son who is battling this right now, research is a top priority. We want to see Hunter for many, many years to come, so it’s extremely important to our family.”
Dan agrees, saying, “I hope they find a cure someday so people won’t have to go through the pain we feel right now.”
Julie and Dan’s brother-in-law formed “Team Hunter” for Brave the Shave’s main event March 10. Hunter’s dad, younger brothers, Mason and Carter, and several other family members will be going bald to support Hunter and raise money for the family fund and childhood cancer research. Even Hunter’s 13-year-old sister, Gabrielle, will participate by cutting and donating her long, brown locks, which will be sent to the organization, Children with Hair Loss to be made into a wig. “It’s a way to help other people who are going through this,” Gabrielle says. “I didn’t really want to go bald, but I can still do something to support the team.”
Ryker Wallace loves sports, and he is the comedian in his family. “He’s a very happy kid. He likes to laugh and make jokes,” says his mom, Ashley. “He is the youngest of four boys, so there is a lot of fun to be had at our house – teasing and playing football with his brothers.”
When the family found out he had a brain tumor in April of last year, he was seven years old. “He had an MRI on Friday and we were on our way to Fargo Friday night,” she says. Ryker had brain surgery two days later and was in the hospital for 12 days.
When the family returned home, Ryker had a package waiting for him from Brave the Shave. It contained an iPad.
“This was a huge blessing because it makes a big difference when he goes to his appointments. He sometimes has to wait a long time, and it keeps him busy and helps keep his mind off what he’s going through. That thing goes everywhere with us,” Ashley says.
That was the first time the Wallace family had ever heard of Brave the Shave, and had no idea how it would become part of their life. “Parents of the Brave” is a page on Facebook where honoree families go to share their frustrations, ask questions, and vent with a group of people who can truly understand what they are going through. “It’s been a huge help,” Ashley says. “Once you get to be part of the group, you realize you’re not alone – other families are going through the same thing and they’re there to support you. They can give you advice about what has worked and what hasn’t in their experiences, which is a big help. And they’re there to lift you up when you don’t know what to do. You hear their stories and successes and it gives you hope.”
Being around other kids that are in the same boat has also helped Ryker immensely, because he sees there are other kids just like him. “It makes him feel like he’s not alone in the battle, and that’s huge,” she says.
Ryker is now halfway through his treatment, which includes one heavy chemo treatment once a month in Fargo and two easier follow-up ones in Bismarck. The Brave the Shave Family Fund has helped ease the financial burden of these trips to Fargo with gas cards and hotel vouchers.
Even though the family has only known about Brave the shave for a short time, Ashley now considers it a “backbone” for all the families going through the journey that is childhood cancer. “When you feel hopeless and don’t know if you can get through it, Brave the Shave is behind you, rooting for you and your family. It’s a lot to take in and a lot of worry, but it’s great to know that you don’t have to go through it alone.”
During his first year battling leukemia, 7-year-old Dash Ohlsen received 19 blood transfusions. “You just don’t realize how important blood donations are until someone you know needs a transfusion,” says Dash’s dad, Taner. “Those times when Dash needed blood he was very, very vulnerable. It was really scary.”
Two years ago, on the one-year anniversary of Dash’s diagnosis, Taner says he and his wife, Kara, needed a distraction. Something to steer away the negative emotions and distract their minds from the “one year ago today” memories that drug them down.
“Because Dash had so many transfusions that first year, we developed a passion for blood donation, so we decided to team up with United Blood Services to hold blood drives at area elementary schools. These drives, which became known as “Dash Drives,” begin with presentations at the schools, teaching students about the importance of blood donation, who needs blood, what it feels like to donate, and a call to action – asking each child to invite one person to donate blood at a drive that takes place at the school a week or two later.
That first year, 2015, there were two blood drives, one of which was at Dash’s school. They were so successful that last year, 10 Dash Drives were held – six in Bismarck, two in Minot, and two in Williston, resulting in 352 units of blood donated. According to Travis Dressler, donor recruitment manager for United Blood Services, one donation has the potential to save three people’s lives, which means more than 1,000 lives were potentially impacted because of last year’s Dash Drives.
“It’s so cool to see these elementary-age kids doing such a great thing in their communities,” Dressler says. “By encouraging people to donate blood, they are truly making a difference and saving lives.”
This year, the number of drives increased to 11, three of which have already taken place. If you ever wonder about the power of a child’s persuasion, take a look at the drive held last week in Minot. “There were 29 people who signed up and 113 people showed up to donate,” Taner says. “Travis with United Blood Services said it was the biggest turnout he’s ever seen.”
There are still plenty of opportunities to donate blood at one of the remaining Dash Drives, which are open to the public. “Dash alone received 20 donations total, and some kids with other types of cancer require 100 or more donations,” Taner says. “When you look at that plus all of the adults with cancer, accident victims, and all the other people who need it – that shows the amount of blood necessary to keep up the supply. And blood isn’t something you can just make, you need people to donate it. It’s an incredibly important gift.”
Following are the remaining Dash Drives for this year:
There is no excuse to miss out on Brave the Shave 2017. Eight events will be held at locations in North, South Dakota and Wyoming in many different venues and on several different dates. Mark your calendars to attend one of these fun events – all of which are held to support a very worthy cause – fighting childhood cancer!
Brave the Shave online auction
Wednesday, March 1-Friday, March 10
The 2017 Brave the Shave online auction will include autographed memorabilia, gift cards, gift baskets, hand-crafted items, event tickets, and much more. Preview the auction at https://www.32auctions.com/bravetheshave2017. We will continue to add items until March 9, 2017. Dig deep, it’s for the kids!
Brave the Shave Family Boot Camp
Sunday, March 5 @ 1 p.m.
McDowell Gym, Missouri Valley Family YMCA $20/individual or $50/family through Feb. 17 $25/individual or $60/family after Feb. 17
This superhero-themed boot camp will benefit Brave the Shave’s “super kids.” One side of the gym will feature a family-friendly boot camp, complete with an awesome obstacle course, and adults will be able to get their sweat on with a high-intensity boot camp on the other side. T-shirts will be available while supplies last. Register at https://bravetheshave.coop/Event/Boot_Camp/.
Flagship Event Friday, March 10 @ 1:30 p.m. (Doors open at 1 p.m.)
Missouri Valley Family YMCA
In addition to hair cutting and head shaving, the event will include a photo booth, children’s crafts, silent auction, face painting, balloon creations, and local mascots. Several children battling cancer and their families will be honored at this event. Visit https://donate.bravetheshave.coop/campaign/Bismarck-ND-Flagship-Event/c112184 to learn more, sign up to participate, or donate.
Campbell County Brave the Shave Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 1 p.m. (MST)
Dry Fork Station
Bismarck Bobcats Brave the Shave night Saturday, March 18 @ Puck drops at 7:15 p.m.
VFW Sports Center
Before the hockey game begins, several Bobcats players and coaches will have their heads shaved on center-ice. The players’ signature Brave the Shave jerseys worn that night will be auctioned off immediately following the game.
Brookings Brave the Shave Monday, March 20 @ 4:30 p.m.
In addition to hair cutting, head shaving, and a live radio broadcast, one of the event’s most popular fundraisers is the annual gun raffle. This year, 1,000 tickets will be sold at $10 a ticket for a chance to win the grand prize, a gun package valued at $1,000. Other prizes include $300 and $200 Visa gift cards. Questions about the raffle? Contact Kristie Ching at 605-651-1120. Keep up to date on the event and its activities by following it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bravetheshavebrookings/ or sign up to participate or donate at https://donate.bravetheshave.coop/campaign/brookings-event/c113326.
Each year, many feet of hair are donated during our Brave the Shave events. This year, the hair will be going to an organization that was set up specifically for kids who have lost their hair due to cancer and other medically-related issues such as burns and Alopecia. And here’s the kicker. The families of these kids don’t have to pay a dime for the wigs.
This nonprofit organization, Children with Hair Loss, was founded in 2000 by Regina Villemure, a hairstylist whose three-year-old niece was diagnosed with leukemia. Regina noticed during her niece’s treatment that many of the children in similar situations either didn’t have hair or wore outdated synthetic wigs.
Being in the cosmetology industry, Regina knew that hairpieces were very expensive and most families couldn’t afford human hair. After doing a lot of research and finding that no other organization at that time was giving human hair replacements to kids at no cost, her passion for hair evolved into a mission, and today, Children with Hair Loss donates more than 300 customized hairpieces to boys and girls every year, giving them renewed confidence and self-esteem.
Unlike other organizations that make hair replacements, Children with Hair Loss accepts hair that is as short as 8 inches (although longer is preferred) and chemically treated (although non-chemically treated hair is preferred, any hair in good condition is accepted).
To this day, Children With Hair Loss has never charged a child for a hairpiece, and runs solely on charitable donations. What more could you expect from an organization with the slogan, “Covering young heads to heal young hearts?”