By NAYELI CABRERA
Business & science editor
Celia Tirado, a graduate student who earned her nursing degree in 2011 at the University and is currently pursuing her master’s in business administration, never expected that shaving her head would help raise funds to help advance childhood cancer research.
On March 9, Tirado, along with other ‘shavees,’ gathered at Brian O’Neill’s Irish Pub for the head-shaving event hosted by St. Baldrick’s, a foundation that raises money for childhood cancer research. At 5:35 p.m., she got on stage with other participants and started to shave her head. The crowd watched with anticipation, as she was the first long-haired female of the night to shave her head.
Several crowd members started approaching her and donating even more money to the cause, applauding her for her courage. In addition, her sisters from Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority were standing in the front row, encouraging her to keep going.
Tirado raised $545 in just the 15 minutes she was on stage, and after the head-shaving day, her total rose from $1,920, which she had raised over the course of two months, to $2,650.
Melissa Kling, who has been the treasurer for the Houston event for the past three years, donated over $200 dollars to Tirado for the cause.
“When I saw her get up there with her beautiful, long curly hair, I just thought how brave, how awesome it was that she was doing it and I wanted to support her,” Kling said.
Tirado said she first started her support for cancer research when she learned more about breast cancer.
This interest grew with her involvement in SLG, a sorority that has breast cancer as its philanthropy. Her personal experiences associated with cancer increased when she became a nurse, allowing her to witness first-hand how cancer can take a toll on a patient’s life.
However, seeing a close family friend suffer from the hardships and pain that accompany cancer was what gave her the final push to search for means to lend a helping hand to cancer victims.
When two sisters from the SLG chapter at UT Austin informed her of St. Baldrick’s and its support of cancer research, patients and their families, Tirado immediately researched the foundation.
Tirado discovered that every year 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer, and in the U.S, more children die of cancer than from any other disease. St. Baldrick’s funds cancer research for children, since all types of childhood cancers combined receive only four percent of federal funding for cancer research.
The foundation aims to change these statistics and has become the largest private funder of cancer research and granted over $103 million to fund cancer research for children, only six percent of which goes to administrative fees.
“I just felt a pull to contribute to the cause,” Tirado said. “My patients who have cancer go through so much; I can’t even imagine what children and their families go through.”
She signed up to participate in St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event, which consists of fundraising before a set date in which all participants shave their heads to support for the cancer patients that lose their hair and inspires others to give to the foundation.
“Shaving my head definitely raises awareness,” Tirado said. “People ask me all the time why I cut off my long, curly hair and I get to tell them the cause for it and direct them to the website to make donations.”
Senior Rosario Jara said she felt admiration for Tirado.
“She is such an inspiration and I’m so lucky to be able to call her my sister,” Jara said.