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A friend indeed

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Third-grader hopes to help a friend, bring awareness to childhood cancer

BY WREN PROPP

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Special to the Monitor

It started with William.

He’s the dear friend of 8-year-old Bailey McVay, a third-grader at Barranca Elementary in Los Alamos.

He’s recovering from childhood cancer, and he’s half a world away, living with his parents in Australia. And, he’s the reason she decided – months ago – that she’d go under the electric razor at a charitable “shave” for childhood cancer research sponsored annually by the nonprofit St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

In Los Alamos, the event is organized by members of the Los Alamos Fire Department. This year’s event on March 17 has generated $2,466 so far, with 23 individuals having their heads or faces shaved, organizers said. Those donating to Bailey’s decision, like paying up when someone successfully acts on a “dare,” have contributed $526, with more donations expected. In the five years the LAFD members have held the event, they’ve raised a total of $22,669.

But it wasn’t about the money, for Bailey.

It was about helping others see how the severe illness of childhood cancer and treatments impact children and their families. William has had cancer in his spine, his sister, Emma, and their mom and dad, have been through a lot. Her friend from pre-kindergarten days is on the mend now.

“He has a lot of hair, now,” Bailey said.

The McVays moved from Australia two and half years ago, but William remains very close to Bailey, an only child. He became ill a few years before the McVays left Australia. Participating in St. Baldrick’s this year with a head shave would help bring people into a “moment,” when awareness could happen, she said.

“I want to bring awareness of it. People don’t know how tough cancer is, but it really is,” she said.

True to her goal, Bailey did her homework regarding childhood cancer, treatment, and finding a cure. When teachers at her elementary school learned about her planned activity, she was invited to present a report to all of the third-graders at her school.

“I’m so proud of her,” said her mom, Tina McVay.

Friends of Bailey’s dad, Troy, have been eager to donate money.

Bailey had participated in St. Baldrick’s previously by dyeing her hair, but was determined to participate more fully this year. She started her campaign with her parents, several months ago, her mom said. They hesitated.

“I thought, `this is just a phase, right?’ She won’t really want to do it,” Tina McVay said.

Wrong. Months of persistence paid off.

Bailey wanted an opportunity to bring more attention to the struggle of children and their families. With a very bare head, she felt could help children and adults understand how childhood cancer can stigmatize people. They need understanding, but more than anything, a cure.

Individuals may choose to donate their hair to other causes, but St. Baldrick’s doesn’t do it, according to the foundation’s website. Bailey’s hair was too short to donate, her mom said.

The day after the St. Baldrick’s event, when she went to school, there weren’t a lot of stares, because her presentation had already prepped everybody in third grade for the change.

She experienced a few more strange looks as she went about her day after school, but she’s hoping people will become more aware just from the brief second of interaction.

To be sure, Bailey isn’t really a girl with her head in her hair.

“I really didn’t care about how it looked,” she said. One thing has caught her a little by surprise, however. “It’s cold,” she said.

Amazing

God bless Miss Bailey McVay.