Maeve Callahan | Staff Writer | mcallahan@mail.smcvt.edu

Before Katie Escobedo ‘23 enrolled at St. Michael’s College in 2019, she knew she wanted to host a St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser on campus. 

As a rising senior, her dream came to fruition on April 29.

Students from all across campus gathered in the Ross Sports Center from 5-8 p.m. to partake in raffles, listen to live music, eat pizza, and watch 20 students shave their heads by local barber Andrew Juhasz. The goal was to raise money for the foundation and bring awareness to childhood cancer. Each of the varsity sports teams donated a basket, along with Escobedo and her family. 

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a “volunteer and donor powered charity committed to supporting the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives,” according to their website. It is also the largest benefactor for childhood research grants, funding over $200 million to research. 

Ginny, Escobedo’s mother, shaved her head in 2015 for the fundraiser. She is a pediatric oncology nurse and spoke about the impact of St. Baldrick’s, and the role it plays in funding childhood cancer research. 

“There are so many good things to give your money to. But for somebody who works in pediatric oncology, the research is so important because without that, we’re not going to get better at what we do,” Ginny said in an interview.

Escobedo was one of many organizers for the event. She shaved her head along with seven other students who registered beforehand. The registered shavees were: Ian Trance ‘23, Emma Gooley ‘24, Connor Torpey ‘23, Asher Rich ‘24, Lucas Petruzziello ‘24, Ruby Hern ‘24 and Andrew “AJ” Bird ‘25. Each of them raised a combined total of $23,519, with Escobedo alone raising $17,931. 

Escobedo, a member of the women’s soccer team and St. Michael’s Fire and Rescue, was surrounded by both of her teams throughout the night.

As the night continued, ten other people decided to shave their heads. Those who shave their heads, dubbed “shavees,” wanted to spread awareness for childhood cancer and stand in solidarity with those who experience hair loss during chemotherapy treatments. 

Whether each shavee had planned for months, minutes before the event, or even during the event, each person had a reason behind their decision. 

Students shaved their heads all to raise money for research of childhood cancers in honor of Cayllie Alcki Lipford. The 20 shavees hold photos of her at the end of the event.

“This year, I will be shaving my head in honor of Cayllie Alicki Lipford, one of my mother’s patients,” Escobedo said. She dedicated both the event and her shave in her honor. 

“Cayllie was diagnosed as a young adult a few years after completing nursing school, with Wilms tumor, a pediatric kidney tumor. Unfortunately, after multiple relapses, and four years of fighting, Cayllie died on March 10, 2022,” Escobedo said in an interview.

Escobedo added that Ginny and Cayllie often spoke about the significance of research.

“She and my mom had many conversations regarding the importance of research, and as Cayllie would say, ‘getting better treatments for this…’ My mom has lost many patients, but this is one that touched her in an amazingly special way. And it is truly my honor to dedicate this event to her,” Escobedo said.

This fundraiser is in honor of Cayllie Alicki Lipford, who died of a pediatric Wilms tumor on Marth 10, 2022. All of the money from raffle tickets, bracelets, shirts, as well as the money raised by the shavees will all go towards opportunities for childhood cancers like Cayllie’s.

Gooley said she was fortunate for the opportunity to shave her head. 

“I feel privileged to have the choice and to be able to raise $1,500 to give them research and hopefully find a cure… just the whole community cheering you on like, we’re here for all the kids, whether they shaved their head or not.” 

Petruzziello said that his family history of cancer motivated him to shave his head. 

“My family has [a history of] cancer in it. I think that there’s no real reason to say no. I remember Katie asked me to and I originally said no,” he said. “But then I realized that I didn’t have any good reason not to, so I did. And I raised more money than I thought I would, and I’m just happy to help in any way that I can.” 

A range of emotions were experienced across the gym. The shavees felt a sense of support and solidarity throughout the night. 

“I feel like if I’d done this in middle school, everyone would make fun of me or something,” Petruzziello said. “But this feels like everybody is, you know, proud of me and supportive, and it’s a good environment to be in. So I was happy to be here to do it.”

Shannon Bollhardt, women’s basketball head coach and St. Baldrick’s event staff coordinator, reflected on the student turnout at the fundraiser. 

“Tonight just goes to show that people show up for this cause, that’s what St. Michael’s is. I’ve been here for almost 15 years. And when something big is going on, people show up,” she said.

Bollhardt also noted a sense of comradery among the athletic teams to execute the event. 

“Not only [was] the money raised, but every [varsity] sport team donated a raffle basket. Teams came early to set up and are staying late to break down and went out and solicited to get food donations. So I think for me, it’s not just the amount of money we raised, but also just the feel good. Everybody showed up,” she said.

Throughout her childhood, Escobedo was surrounded by role models of service. “My mom’s a pediatric oncology nurse, and my dad’s a firefighter. So both work in an industry of helping others. So growing up, that was always like our thing. They just kind of lead by example,” she said.

Escobedo began following her family’s footsteps from a young age. “…Growing up after school, I would go to my mom’s hospital and do arts and crafts with the kids… I would be in charge of wiping all the toys down and like I had a lot of experiences growing up with kids with cancer. And my mom always spoke so highly of them. So it’s a really close cause to my heart and with our family values. It’s just an incredible organization.”

The Escobedo family is no stranger to fundraising. Ginny (right) is a pediatric oncology nurse and Peter (left) is a firefighter and they were thrilled that Katie spearheaded this entire event.

Fundraising isn’t new to Escobedo and her family. 

“My parents were like the ultimate fundraisers, like we went to so many fundraisers every single year, whether they were hosting it or just there to clean up afterwards. That’s how I got into the fundraising type of thing. And St. Baldrick’s in particular, my dad’s firefight, firehouse, hosted one every couple of years. My mom shaved her head when I was in eighth grade, and so the next year I was like, I definitely want to do that. So that’s how St. Baldrick’s came into our lives,” she said.

But if there’s one thing Escobedo that sparked her joy after the event – other than pride for her supportive community – it’s gratitude.

On April 29, Katie Escobedo ’23 along with 19 other students shaved their heads for childhood cancer research. Eight of the shavees registered before the event to shave their head and each raised money for this event. (Photos by: Peyton Edwards)

“We had such a great community of staff members that stepped up and helped… And just the amount of people that showed up meant the world to me… So really just an emphasis again on that community, which is very unique and very special, and I’m so grateful for.”