Haley Burt will have her head shaved March 15, 2013, at Lanes, Trains, and Automobiles in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to raise money for childhood cancer research. (Photo submitted)
Haley Burt loves playing the claw machine. So, it was no surprise that’s where she spent most of the night of her first Bald in the Boro.
Coin, aim, drop.
Coin, aim, drop.
The teddy bear she was aiming for kept slipping from her grasp as she played March 11, 2011, at Lanes, Trains and Automobiles in Murfreesboro.
Finally, the teddy bear held fast and was dropped into her waiting hands.
As a third grader, she didn’t know that simple stuffed animal would alter the course of her young life, giving her a mission, a goal to strive for.
In the meantime, Haley showed her mother, Jackie, the bear.
Then she heard Hunter Jones was there. As one of the honorees that evening, Hunter was the reason they were all there that night.
“I want to meet him,” she said to her mom, deciding to give the bear to the leukemia survivor.
In March 2011, Hunter was still recovering from receiving a bone marrow transplant from his younger sister, Ronin. His immune system was too fragile to enter the bowling alley where the annual St. Baldrick’s Bald in the Boro event was taking place.
After meeting Hunter and giving him her hard won teddy bear, Haley made a split-second decision.
“I’m doing it tonight,” Haley said to her mom. “I met him, and I’m doing it tonight.”
The Scales Elementary student then took her place and went Bald in the Boro, shaving her head in the name of childhood cancer.
At Bald in the Boro, teams and individuals vow to shave their heads in order to raise money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government.
Over the last two years, Bald in the Boro volunteers have raised more than $104,000 to support St. Baldrick’s in childhood cancer research.
Jackie supported her daughter’s decision to shave her head, but she warned her daughter about how people and her peers could react to a 9-year-old bald girl.
“I warned her that kids would make fun of her,” Jackie said.
Surprisingly, few people commented on Haley’s new look. And when they did, she took the opportunity to explain the impact of childhood cancer.
Like how in the United States in 2007, approximately 10,400 children under age 15 were diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
And how cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children 1 to 14 years old.
And how children are most often just given smaller doses of adult medications and treatments, even though childhood cancers aren’t the same as their adult cousins.
And how 35 percent of children with cancer die either from the disease or the treatment.
“That’s why Haley wants to shave her head, to bring awareness to childhood cancer,” Jackie said.
This year, Haley is shaving her head again on Friday, March 15, at Lanes, Trains and Automobiles.
She took off last year because she was “just now looking like a girl again,” her mom said, adding Haley still raised money for St. Baldrick’s and went to Bald in the Boro to encourage all the women who shaved their heads.
But this year Haley – and Jackie – will both lose their locks for a great cause.
“She wants to shave for Clinton (Milliken) this year ... and Alex (Scogins),” Jackie said.
Clinton lost his battle with brain cancer last January. Alex, a neighbor of the Burt’s, was recently diagnosed with a similar cancer to Clinton’s.
“She has known cancer survivors, but she hasn’t really known any who are fighting it. Now, we know somebody ...” Jackie said. “This brings it closer to home for her.”
Inspired by Alex’s struggle, Haley and her brother Wyatt, 9, have started a card drive called “Get Well Wishes for Alex.” In a few short weeks, they have collected more than 100 cards.
“Haley is all about volunteering,” her proud mother said, explaining her daughter’s involvement with metering homeless kids after school and working with the Cupcake Crew, which inspires children to make a positive impact on their community by honoring local unsung heroes and other nonprofits in fun and unique ways.
Haley loves to give back, her mom said, adding Haley will turn 11 years old a few days after Bald in the Boro, so Jackie is turning it into a birthday party for her.
“This is going to be a thing for her – to draw attention to childhood cancer,” Jackie said.
To help Haley, donate to her team Baldies, Baldies Everywhere at stbaldricks.org/teams/BaldiesBaldieEverywhere or call 888-899-2253.