Enda McDonnell always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day like everybody else – with good friends, cheer, and Irish music. Then one year, the reinsurance executive decided to observe the annual March holiday in a radical way; he convinced friends, colleagues and strangers to shave their heads completely bald.
Why the strange ritual? It all started when McDonnell was inspired by one of Landmark’s community-based programs to help children fight cancer. Together with his friends, John Bender and Tim Kenny, they devised the St. Baldrick’s Celebration, an annual event that raises money for children’s cancer research by daring men and women to shave their heads on March 17th. Shavees express solidarity with cancer-stricken youngsters – who frequently lose their hair during chemotherapy – demonstrating their commitment to finding a cure, and, at the same time, raising money through pledges.
With an initial, modest goal of raising “$17,000 on the 17th of March from 17 shavees,” in its first four years the St. Baldrick’s Celebration has in its first four years raised approximately $3 million to conquer childhood cancer. More than 3,000 people (including approximately 200 women) have shaved their heads. In addition to the thousands of men and women shaving their heads each year, McDonnell says luminaries such as the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jay Leno and other celebrities are committed to celebrating March 17th with electric clippers instead of Guinness.