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Monkey see, monkey shave

St. Baldrick’s celebrants go bald in continuing efforts to raise money for childhood cancer research.

Devon Green April 30th, 2014

St. Baldrick’s Day on the Plaza

1-4 p.m. Sunday

Velvet Monkey Salon

1701 NW 16th St.


Misty Byrd shaves a child's head at VZD's.
Photo by Mark Hancock

Bald is beautiful, especially when it’s for a good cause. It seems contradictory for a business that makes its living styling locks to help its clientele shed them, but to make a difference in the lives of sick kids, Velvet Monkey Salon, 1701 NW 16th St., is doing just that.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a national, volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that challenges participants, or “shavees,” to go bald in solidarity with children with cancer and raise pledge money while doing it.

VZD’s Restaurant & Club, a regular site for the yearly event, held its drive earlier this month and has seen it grow for several years. Its most recent event raised more than $125,000.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation donates more money per year to childhood cancer research than the American Cancer Society, according to its official website. Nationally, volunteers raised more than $34 million in 2013 alone.

This year, local organizers Suzanne Yancey and Kai Tancredi decided to host their own fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s, this time in the Plaza District. Yancey, who works in the nonprofit sector, heard of the foundation several years ago.

She has a special needs child and became aware of St. Baldrick’s through other parents. The thing that drew Yancey to the event is the way the national foundation operates.

“Working with nonprofits, that’s the first thing I look for — [St. Baldrick’s Foundation] operating costs are so low, they operate with almost none and give more across the board than several other organizations,” she said.

Yancey approached Estrella Evans, owner of Velvet Monkey Salon, about holding an event, and she donated both her salon space and her stylists.

Fellow organizer Tancredi is the project and event coordinator for FreeOK, a local nonprofit that focuses on activism within the local humanist community.

Since the planning began, Tancredi herself found out she has cancer. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

“So now, it’s personal,” Yancey added. She is putting her money where her hair used to be.

“I set a goal of $1,000, and I have surpassed that. My friends have donated $1,200 to see me bald,” she said.

She also pointed out that so far, more women than men have signed up to be shaved on May 4.

“Being bald is a statement, especially if you are a woman. Its just as much about raising funds as it is about raising awareness,” she said.

Yancey, a customer at Velvet Monkey, said her stylist is not thrilled with her losing her locks, but she agreed to it as long as she gets to do the shaving. Velvet Monkey’s goal for the event is $10,000, and Yancey said they’ve already reached 75 percent of that pledge. As for the loss of her own hair, she’s philosophical.

“You know, you spend enough time around these kids and you realize they didn’t have a choice, so to have that choice and be able to help kids in the process is a no-brainer,” she said.

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