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Shave for Hope: A Teen’s Inspiring Quest to Conquer Kids’ Cancer

January 14, 2024
4 min read
Billy and two VEO's

Billy (middle) with the event organizers of the Annual Brave the Shave In Memory of Joey Sudo Event in 2019, Tom Suit (left) and Tom Crawford (right).

College essays can be written about a lot of topics and Billy chose to write it about how seeing his friend go through grief inspired him to want to make a difference for kids with cancer. His essay was written in spring of 2019 and he attended Coastal Carolina University from September 2020 through December 2022, working toward a business degree. He paused his studies at Coastal Carolina University to work towards his Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) Associate credentials, where he provides golf instructions, works with the youth golf clinic, and experiences the business aspect of the golf world. Now, Billy is ready to continue his college coursework and will soon be taking online courses to achieve his degree in business.

400,000, 2,000, 6, All these numbers are significant. 400,000 is the average number of kids every year who are diagnosed with cancer, 2,000 is the number of these kids who will lose their battle, 6 is the average age a child is diagnosed with cancer. Every year, people from all backgrounds, of all colors, and of all ages come together to fight this horrible disease. I am one of them. Over the last 11 years, I have participated in a head-shaving event, raising money for St. Baldrick’s, a foundation that provides grants for childhood cancer research. In the last 11 years, I have raised close to $40,000 to help fund that research. Our event raised almost $130,000 just this past year, and over the last 15 years, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has granted over $262,000,000 [number calculated in 2019] and helped fund the research that eventually developed the first FDA approved drug specifically developed to treat children with cancer in over 20 years.

The event near me started when I was only 6 years old. There was a boy, at my elementary school, a little bit older than me named Joey who was fighting cancer. His sister was my friend, and I knew she was sad, I was 6 and didn’t want my friend to be sad. After hearing his story, I knew I wanted to help in any way I could. So, I decided that I would join our family and friends to raise money and shine a light on childhood cancer by shaving my head. A couple years later, Joey passed away. I knew then that I was going to do this and whatever else I could to make sure no family has to go through what his did. I was not alone in this. St. Baldrick’s is more than a charity. It managed to bring together friends, neighbors, students, teachers, business owners, and community leaders. We all came together for one great cause. In the 11 years since I first had my head shaved, I have met people I may have never met, I’ve been in the newspaper and on TV. More importantly, I have a shared experience with our St. Baldrick’s community that connects us like a family, and I know that at any time I could call on anyone in that community, if I needed help or support.

Left: Billy’s first shave at 6 years old in 2009, Middle: Billy shaving his head in 2020, Right: Billy and Jessica, Joey’s sister, at the 2020 event.

Left: Billy’s first shave at 6 years old in 2009, Middle: Billy shaving his head in 2020, Right: Billy and Jessica, Joey’s sister, at the 2020 event.

As I have grown, I have been able to go out with my friends and play sports and just be a kid, but kids battling cancer have not had those same chances and that personally is something I will never stop trying to change. We all know that these kids and their families are going through a lot, so we make it our goal to help those who are already affected and prevent more families from having to go through this alone. Every year as the first Sunday in March approaches, we all prepare and ask for donations from whoever we can, all with the same goal in mind, to prevent this awful thing from happening to anyone else.

Now as I head into my senior year of high school, I will be getting ready for college, a career, and life outside my little community, but I can promise that no matter how old I get, how busy I get, or how far away I am; I will be there every March to shave my head, stand in solidarity with and bring awareness to the battles of these children. I know that as I enter adulthood, this community, and what it has done when they put their bald heads together will be with me for life. #thisoneis4joey  

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