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Girl conquers phobia for upcoming St. Baldrick’s cancer event

Annual fundraiser in Roseville will push cash towards a cure
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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Shaving for a cause:

What: 11th Annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation Head-Shaving Celebration

Where: Westfield Galleria

When: March 2 from noon to 4 p.m.

Ever since she can remember, Emma Eckhardt experienced crippling anxiety around having her hair cut — a Rapunzel-like curse she’s managing to conquer in order to help with an event in Roseville designed to fight childhood cancer.

Michelle Eckhardt can’t remember the exact moment she knew her daughter had a major fear of barbers and hairstylists, but she knows it goes back to Emma’s very first moment facing a professional pair of scissors. As the years have passed, the ritual has not gotten any easier: Most haircuts start with Emma feeling panic, and then a warm sensation in her stomach that often causes her to throw up.

“We’ve always done her haircuts at home,” Michelle said. “She’s terrified of getting sick, passing out or puking in front of people.”

For Emma, now 13, the stress around hair-cutting events has not abated at all. Nevertheless, she endured a lengthy haircut on Wednesday in order to take part of the upcoming St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving celebration in Roseville. Emma had very personal reasons for putting herself to the test.

“A lot of people in my family have had cancer,” Emma told The Press Tribune, “and when I was 9, my aunt Cherrie died of it.”

Emma has since gotten involved, participating in a number of breast cancer walks and donating hair with her mother to Locks of Love. This year, she decided to take the plunge and get her head shaved for the annual St. Baldrick’s event, which happens Saturday, March 2, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Westfield Galleria. The head shave is put on by The Keaton Raphael Memorial in Roseville, a nonprofit group that helps local families dealing with childhood cancer by offering financial support, services, parent-to-parent networking and bereavement resources. The Keaton Raphael Memorial has also to date raised more than $4 million to fund research to end childhood cancer.

“Funding research that’s happening right here at U.C. Davis is a huge part of our mission,” said Teresa Hofhenke, executive director of The Keaton Raphael Memorial. “Our understanding — talking to the doctors — is they are very close to having a real cure, possibly in the next five to 10 years. That’s why it’s so important to keep the research going.”

Dana Pearson, the Development Coordinator for The Keaton Raphael Memorial, noted that the St. Baldrick’s head-shaving celebration draws a huge array of support across the region.

“We have a lot of partners who help here in Roseville,” Pearson said, “And we have partners like DeVere’s Irish Pub, who are allowing us to have shaves in Sacramento and Davis, as well.”

One organization that always puts a team together to raise money is the Roseville Police Department. Sergeant Josh Simon is in charge of gathering officers to have their heads shaved. Simon describes St. Baldrick’s as a day the department always looks forward to.

“We want to show solidarity with the kids who don’t have hair because they have lost it to the treatment they undergo fighting these horrible diseases,” Simon said. “It’s a great venue to show we care and to give back to something so inspiring.”

Members of the public wanting to volunteer or put a team together for St. Baldricks’ should call Pearson at (916) 757-6133 or email events@childcancer.org.

For Emma’s part, getting involved in St. Baldrick’s meant having a licensed beautician come to her home and shave her head before the big event at the Galleria. Fearing she would get sick, and even throw up, in front of hundreds of people, Emma’s only option was to shave her head in private. Roseville’s Super Cuts volunteered to send a beautician to do the job and collect her hair.

Asked if the impending haircut was making her scared, Emma quietly remarked, “Well, a little.”