Gracie Lloyd — like many other 8-year-old children — is a cheerful ball of energy, an avid gymnast, and loves playing outside. Cancer-free for almost four years, she’s also a survivor.
“Gracie was diagnosed with stage II Nephroblastoma (Wilms Tumor) in July of 2009 when she was just 3 years old,” Grand Junction resident and dad Rusty Lloyd said. “Doctors found a grapefruit-sized tumor growing in her kidney. She had an extensive surgery to remove the tumor and they had to remove her kidney as well.”
Then she underwent six months of chemotherapy — which caused a variety of side effects, including “severe neuropathy,” making it difficult to walk at the time.
To support Gracie’s battle and raise funds for childhood cancer research, Rusty will shave his head as part of Grand Junction’s third annual St. Baldrick’s Head-Shaving Event. Set for Edgewater Brewery on Saturday, June 28, camaraderie and haircuts will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Up to 200 community members will go bald in a tent set up on the brewery’s lawn.
“We go as a family,” Rusty said, who shaved his head in 2012 and 2013 as part of the fundraiser. “It’s important to raise awareness [about] childhood cancer. It impacts a lot of people; not only children, but families associated with them.”
According to event organizer Jim Hamlin, he’s hopeful to raise $50,000 for childhood cancer research this Saturday from teams, individuals, prize drawings, raffles and auctions. Last year’s event raised $34,000; in its first year, teams donated $26,000. A variety of local businesses and organizations will participate, including Grand Junction Police Department, the City of Grand Junction and Mesa County Administration.
Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese shaved her head Monday, June 23, in advance of Saturday’s mass head-shaving. She pledged to cut an inch off her hair for every $1,000 raised.
Pugliese exceeded her $5,000 fundraising goal, Mesa County Administration spokeswoman Victoria Patsantaras said in an email, noting the commissioner chose to shear her locks early to encourage last-minute participation.
Jim Cox, a local photographer, will go bald Saturday, too. Participating since its inception, he also documents the event through his camera lens.
“I’m growing my hair and beard just for this event,” he said, with plans to shave both if he raises $400. “It’s very heartwarming. It’s an honor to be involved.”
WHAT IS ST. BALDRICK’S FOUNDATION?
St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an international nonprofit based in California focused on childhood cancer research and fundraising efforts.
Hamlin, a Grand Junction resident and photographer, brought the “bald is beautiful” concept to Grand Junction three years ago to honor his son, Neal Carmine, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at age 25 in 2006. Carmine died 11 months after his initial diagnosis.
“Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has awarded more than $127 million to support lifesaving research, making the foundation the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants,” a news release said. “St. Baldrick’s funds are granted to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world and to younger professionals who will be the experts of tomorrow.”
Naggy McGee’s in Grand Junction hosted the inaugural St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event in 2012. Last year it moved to Edgewater to accommodate a larger crowd.