Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the amount that Bald 4 Bucks has raised since its inception. The fundraiser has generated more than $400,000 to date.
When Brooke Barrett learned her great-grandfather died from lymphoma at age 44, she knew she had to do something to honor his memory and help find a cure for cancer.
That’s when Brooke, 10, decided to participate in the 13th annual Bald 4 Bucks, an event in which participants shave their head to raise money for cancer research. Held this spring at Rampart High School, the event saw hundreds of students and their families support participants, and help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The daughter of Woodmen-area residents Patrick and Kristine Barrett, Brooke is a fifth grader at Academy International Elementary School. Kristine told Brooke about her great-grandfather and Brooke wanted to help prevent others from experiencing the same fate.
Lymphoma is a group of cancers that affect the cells that play a role in the immune system, representing cells involved in the body’s lymphatic system. “I felt bad for him and I wanted to do something special,” Brooke said.
According to Kristine, Brooke approached her three nights before the event stating she wanted to participate in Bald 4 Bucks. “I thought, ‘She’s a girl, her hair grows really slow and people might make fun of her,’” Kristine said.
The family agreed, Kristine said. “My husband worried her hair wouldn’t grow back until she was in high school and felt her hair was a big deal of who she is,” Kristine said.
However, Patrick had a change of heart and decided to support his daughter, he said. “Brooke said, ‘Dad, God spoke to me and said to do this,’” Patrick said, choking back tears. “Her desire to help others fell in with what God wants from us.”
The Barretts met with Brooke’s teacher, Karen Folleras, who praised Brooke’s spirit and helped her signed up. “She (Folleras) is one of the main reasons Brooke decided to do this, with her support and love,” Kristine said.
The Barretts rescheduled appointments so they could attend the event. Brooke appeared reluctant as she lowered herself onto the barber’s chair and awaited instructions. Teachers, students and scores of onlookers clapped their hands and cheered approvingly as 10-plus inches of Brooke’s brown curls fell to the floor.
“My friends were there the whole way. They watched me shave my head. They hugged and cried. My friends and my family were very proud that I did this. They kept touching my head. I felt more beautiful after I shaved my head,” said Brooke, whose shorn locks will be fashioned into wigs for cancer patients.
Classmates Sam Mitchell and Neasa Piffarerio praised Brooke for her bravery. “I thought it was cool she did this because I would have been too scared to give up my hair,” Sam said of her shoulder-length blond tresses. Neasa, whose long dark hair hangs below her shoulders, added, “She was brave. I don’t think I could have done what she did.”
Kristine pointed out that Brooke was the only fifth-grade girl to shave her head that day. “Her friends and teachers surrounded her. My husband and I were videotaping and watching the raw emotions of her being anxious, scared, sad and then joyful. It was a touching moment,” Kristine said tearfully.
To date, Brooke has raised $3,060 for the LLS and has received donations from throughout the world. An anonymous donor even contributed $500, Kristine said. Brooke won her school’s grand prize for raising the most money.
According to Kristine, Brooke never complained about having her head shaved. “She has been called a boy, but it doesn’t upset her because she knows who she is and why she shaved her head,” Kristine said. Folleras added, “Brooke did this because of the goodness in her heart and I will never forget her.”
Over the past decade the Rampart community has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancer research. Students last year raised more than $100,000 leading all national schools in the fundraiser. Bald 4 Bucks has raised more than $400,000 since its inception.
Reflecting on her daughter’s contribution, Kristine praised Brooke for attempting to experience not having hair as a cancer patient. “She was compelled for the right reasons to do this and has inspired so many people. I am so proud of her,” Kristine said.