UC Davis Cancer Center, deVere's Irish Pub and the Sacramento Kings team up to support pediatric cancer research

Before and after photographs © UC Regents
Leslie Garcia (above, left, and bottom, right) and Nicole Ekedahl of the UC Davis Cancer Center clinical trials team shaved their heads during a Sacramento Kings basketball game to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

Posted Feb. 29, 2012

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 made that support much more public. She shaved her head.

Her sacrifice — and that of colleague Nicole Ekedahl — was broadcast live to thousands  of Sacramento Kings fans at Power Balance Pavilion during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, March 1. The head shavings helped promote St. Baldrick's events taking place throughout the region 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.'"

More head-shaving events

St. Baldrick's logo ©

March 10: Westfield Galleria, Roseville

March 12deVere's Irish Pub, Sacramento 

March 14deVere's Irish Pub, Davis 

Garcia is part of a cancer center team of 11 so far who 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.

About UC Davis Cancer Center

UC Davis Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California. Its top specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 9,000 adults and children every year, and offer patients access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program has resulted in the discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, the center collaborates with hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California to offer the latest cancer-care services. For information, visit cancer.ucdavis.edu.

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.

Direct donations to the UC Davis Cancer Center St. Baldrick's team can be made by visiting the UC Davis Cancer Center team page.