Baseball team goes bald for childhood cancer research
The Bluffton University baseball team recognized a fellow athlete during its 2016 Vs. Cancer head-shaving fundraiser. For the past five years, the team has raised money for childhood cancer research by razoring their hair during lunch in Marbeck Center.
This year, the event held extra significance as Adam Hopkins ’17, a criminal justice/business major and basketball player from Wellington, Ohio, was in attendance. Hopkins was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic. Half of the funds raised will go to the Cleveland Clinic in Adam’s name, the other half will go toward pediatric cancer research.
“It’s nice to know everyone has my back. Everyone has each other’s back around here. Everyone’s done a lot to help me out,” said Hopkins.
He added, “I think they look pretty good,” in reference to his classmates’ newly cropped cuts.
Many of the players stopped getting trims in order for the shaving event to be even more dramatic. Several, including Blake Merrill ’17, a sport management major from Toledo, Ohio, hadn’t cut their hair since last year’s event.
“It is fun. I like growing my hair out, but it’s also good knowing we raise money before it comes off,” said Merrill.
In addition to the team going under the blade, Dr. Darryl Nester, professor of mathematics; Dr. Stephen Harnish, professor of mathematics; Brent Schroeder, assistant director of the university event complex; and Denny Dorrel, head football coach shaved their heads.
This is the third year Nester has participated. He cuts his hair in support of multiple family members who are dealing with cancer. “I made the original decision to do it for my niece who battled neuroblastoma early in life,” said Nester. “My father died from cancer and my younger brother had some issues as well, and I’ve found it to be a really meaningful experience in a lot of ways. It helps to raise money for a noble cause, and every time I look in the mirror after this happens, I’m reminded of why I did it.”
Harnish was inspired by Nester, by Hopkins-- who he had in class-- and by his own family’s connection to cancer. Harnish’s brother-in-law is battling cancer and his uncle David, who Harnish never met, died of leukemia at the age of eight. “My dad at 90 knows that I’m doing this in part for his brother. I always knew about David, and this recognizes that we’re making strides in facing Leukemia,” said Harnish.
Students, staff and faculty members were challenged to raise $250 in cash on the spot to get Coach Dorrel to shave his head. The money was raised in just 15 minutes. By Thursday afternoon, the team had exceeded their goal by raising $8,011.
Stylists from the Curling Iron in Bluffton shut down their shop for a few hours every year to donate their time and talent for the fundraiser. The team began the annual community service project at the insistence of former assistant coach Aaron Hutchison who had met the founder of Vs. Cancer, a college baseball player who was diagnosed with brain cancer during his freshman year.
“He couldn’t continue his career, and that resonated with us. It resonated with our players knowing that it could be them,” said James Grandey, head baseball coach. “Then obviously this year with Adam Hopkins on the basketball team with lymphoma, it hit home a little bit more for our guys.”
The event takes place each year just before the team’s spring break trip to Florida. The shaved heads make the team easily identifiable to their competitors but, according to Merrill, they also cause one problem.
“Everybody warns us to wear a lot of sunscreen because of the bald heads.”
A freshly-shaven Dr. Stephen Harnish stands with Adam Hopkins ’17, a criminal justice/business major and basketball player, during the annual Vs. Cancer fundraiser. Hopkins was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.