As a member of the clinical trials team at UC Davis Cancer Center, Leslie Garcia understands the value of cancer research and often donates to cancer charities. This year, however, she's making that support much more public. She'll shave her head.
Her sacrifice -- and that of colleague Nicole Ekedahl -- will be broadcast live to thousands of Sacramento Kings fans at Power Balance Pavilion at the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, March 1. The head shavings will take place outside at the southeast entrance of the Pavilion. The event will help promote St. Baldrick's events throughout the region taking place in mid-March.
"I wanted to make a bigger statement that people can see long afterwards," said Garcia, an analyst with the UC Davis Cancer Center clinical trials program. "When people ask why I'm bald, I can say, 'Because I'm helping to find a cure for cancer.'"
Garcia is part of a cancer center team of 11 so far who have signed on to shave their heads and raise funds for pediatric cancer research through the St. Baldrick's Foundation. Garcia and Ekedhal's cancer center teammates and about 100 others will have their heads shaved on Monday, March 12, at an official St. Baldrick's head-shaving event at deVere's Irish Pub in downtown Sacramento.
St. Baldrick's is a national charity dedicated to supporting promising childhood cancer research. Sacramento St. Baldrick's events are hosted and organized by the Keaton Raphael Memorial, a philanthropy named for the 5-year-old Roseville boy who died of neuroblastoma in 1998. The foundation and the memorial have raised millions to support pediatric cancer research and programs for families affected by childhood cancer, including those at UC Davis Cancer Center.
For instance, Paul Knoepfler, a UC Davis associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy, received a $100,000 St. Baldrick's grant to investigate the molecular causes of brain tumors in children. And the memorial helped fund a play area for pediatric cancer patients in the UC Davis Cancer Center expansion, scheduled to open in July.
In addition to deVere's in Sacramento, shave events will be held at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville on Saturday, March 10, and at deVere's in Davis on Wednesday, March 14. Forty percent of the funds collected will benefit Sacramento-area pediatric cancer research.
Garcia has worked with cancer patients, including several family members, and she is especially sympathetic toward children who lose their hair during treatment. For youngsters, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of the illness.
"I want to let them know that it's OK to be bald and make a lasting contribution to finding new treatments at the same time," said Garcia.
Those who want to see Garcia and Ekedahl go bald when the Kings play the Clippers have access to specially priced tickets through www.kingsticketsave.com/GetBald. A portion of the ticket sales benefit St. Baldrick's.
Fans can also order a St. Patrick's Day T-shirt through their ticket confirmation e-mail and pick it up during the game at the deVere's tent on the Power Balance Pavilion concourse, where they can also meet Garcia and Ekedahl and learn more about UC Davis Cancer Center research. A portion of the T-shirt proceeds will benefit St. Baldrick's.
Direct donations to the UC Davis Cancer Center St. Baldrick's team can be made by visiting the UC Davis Cancer Center team page.