Jenny Greenberg is always looking to take up a good cause, and that’s why she has no hair.
Standing alone, that sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Let’s back up a bit and explain that Greenberg, a sophomore English major, shaved off her 20-inch-long locks as part of a March 16 St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser.
“St. Baldrick’s is a cancer research organization,” explained Greenberg, who also minors in Women’s Studies. She added that the organization’s main focus is on childhood cancer.
“I had a friend from high school with really long, curly hair, and she talked all the time about wanting to do St. Baldrick’s,” said Greenberg. “She mentioned she wanted to shave her head for the organization, and something about it made me think it wasn’t a bad idea. I gave 27 inches of hair to Locks of Love in 2008, so I’ve never minded giving away my hair. I just decided to go really drastic this time.”
Drastic indeed. Greenberg traveled up to Bolingbrook Golf Club, not far from her south suburban Chicago home of New Lenox, and returned to Charleston with a buzzed haircut. She participated along with some friends from the University of Illinois; St. Baldrick’s asks participating teams to raise money ahead of time, and Greenberg’s group far exceeded its initial goal.
“We started out trying to raise $300, and we raised a little over $900. I really campaigned around campus; I reached out to faculty members, family and old friends.”
Greenberg says some of her EIU instructors even went so far as to take up collections in class. In total, the Bolingbrook event raised $151,467.
“There was a stage at the front of the room in which the shaving took place,” recalled Greenberg. “In front of the stage was a large crowd of people watching everyone get shaved. I was singled out because I was a woman shaving her head; when the hairdresser shaved off my ponytail, the entire crowd screamed at me to hold up the ponytail. I kind of felt like a celebrity!
“I was also very surprised by the individual speakers at the event. They had the kids or families for whom we were raising money come and tell their stories. It was so heartwarming to put a face with a name. It made it all more real.”
While her grandmother did deal with lung cancer, the affliction hasn’t personally touched Greenberg in any other way. She says her decision to participate in St. Baldrick’s was mainly fueled by a desire to get behind worthwhile outreach organizations.
“I’m really involved here on campus,” Greenberg added. “I’m in the Women’s Empowerment League, so we do a lot of activism around campus. I’m also really involved as a coach in Girls on the Run – I can’t say enough about what a great organization that is.”
Aside from the simple pleasures of needing less time to wash and care for her hair and the many compliments she gets around campus, Greenberg says the real payoff is derived from something much more meaningful.
“Having a shaved head has made me an advocate for people who have had cancer or know someone who has had cancer,” explained Greenberg. “I've heard a number of stories in the past few weeks of cancer survivors. I tell the people how strong I think they are to beat such a horrible disease, and then they tell me how strong I am for willingly losing my hair.
"I had a female survivor tell me how much it meant to her that I shaved my head because she was devastated when she had lost all her hair. That story made me tear up and swell with pride at the same time.
“I’m absolutely glad I did this and I don't have a single regret. It was truly a life-changing experience. I raised money and awareness for such a great cause and the pride I feel from the entire experience is so great. Before I shaved my head, I said this would be the only time I'd ever shave my head … but now I'm reconsidering. I'd really love to do it again someday, and I'm encouraging others to do so, too!”