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UC Davis Health System Employees Team up Against Childhood Cancer

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More shavees and donors sought to bolster the region’s 10th annual St. Baldrick’s event in March

UC Davis Cancer Center 2012 St. Baldrick's team © UC Regents
Participants in this year’s St. Baldrick’s Day event include members of team UC Davis Cancer Center, (from left to right) Nicole Ekedahl, Anthony Riles and Leslie Garcia.

January 11, 2012

 A team of compassionate and courageous UC Davis Health System employees will go bald this spring to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

The team, which currently includes two women and one man, will have their heads shaved on Monday, March 12 as part of the 10th annual St. Baldrick’s Day event at deVere’s Irish Pub in downtown Sacramento. The team has set an impressive goal of recruiting several more health system employees and raising $10,000 from donors supporting their efforts.

UC Davis Cancer Center is a sponsor of this year’s St. Baldrick’s Day events, which are hosted and organized by Keaton Raphael Memorial, a philanthropy named for the 5-year-old Roseville boy who died of neuroblastoma in 1998. Keaton Raphael Memorial has raised millions to support pediatric cancer research and programs for families affected by childhood cancer, including those at UC Davis Cancer Center.

KRM logo © Keaton Raphael Memorial

The cancer center also benefits from money raised during the St. Baldrick’s events; last year Paul Knoepfler, an associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy at UC Davis School of Medicine, received a $100,000 grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to investigate the molecular causes of brain tumors in children.  

This year’s events will take place at three venues, involve up to 800 shavees and raise $350,000 or more. Forty percent of the funds collected will benefit Sacramento-area pediatric cancer research, including at UC Davis Cancer Center.

St. Baldrick's logo © St. Baldrick's Foundation

In addition to the festivities at deVere’s in Sacramento, shave events will be held at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville on March 10 and at deVere’s new pub in Davis on March 14. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a national philanthropy dedicated to childhood cancer research. Since 2000, the organization has raised more than $117 million in donations, with more than 189,660 volunteers — including over 17,200 women — who have shaved in solidarity with children with cancer.

Among those who have joined the UC Davis Cancer Center team are long-time cancer center employees, Leslie Garcia and Nicole Ekedahl, both of whom currently work in the Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Support Unit.

Both women said they were inspired to have her head shaved by fellow cancer center employee Sherry Siems, who schedules patient appointments in the cancer center’s oncology clinic and had her head shaved last year.

Garcia, now a budget analyst, said she that she has worked with many adults going through cancer treatment, including several family members, and she is especially sympathetic toward the children who lose their hair during cancer treatment.

 “I had long hair as a child; I can only imagine what it is like for them to when that starts to happen,” she said. “I don’t mind having my head shaved if it means one less child has to go through it.”

Ekedahl, a clinical trials research coordinator who has worked at the Cancer Center for eight years, echoed the sentiment.

“If these sweet little kids can lose their hair, is it going to hurt me?” Ekedahl said. “I am doing it for them, in their honor and for all cancer patients who have gone through cancer.”

Also participating for the second time this year is Anthony Riles, a supervisor of the enterprise storage services in Technical Support Services. Riles, who raised nearly $1,000 last year, aims to raise at least $1,500 during this year’s event.

“I’m trying to recruit more people to our team,” Riles said. “I like to help people who are in need.”

The participants said they would like other UC Davis Health System employees to join the team and/or make a donation in their name to help them reach their fund-raising goals. To join or make a donation, visit the UC Davis Cancer Center team page at http://www.stbaldricks.org/teams/mypage/73038/2012.