Campus buzzes for cancer research

The event collected hair and money for the University Cancer Center.

Neil Munshi

Christa Beverlin’s hair floated loosely in the crisp spring wind as a Great Clips stylist shaved her head on the Riverbend Commons Plaza on Friday.

The theater arts and dance senior joined approximately 200 others who parted with some or all of their locks to give to cancer research.

Brett Leeson and Karl Enroth, Frontier Hall community advisers, organized Clips for a Cure to collect the hair for the University Cancer Center. Participants shave their heads for money.

The organization puts 91 percent of its earnings toward cancer research, Leeson said.

Beverlin’s shoulder-length hair was donated to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children going through chemotherapy.

“I always feel really bad when I just donate money,” she said. “So I decided to do it, because my hair grows and theirs doesn’t – so I’m really fortunate.”

Leeson said that he and Enroth came up with the idea for the event because members of their families and friends were diagnosed with cancer and went through chemotherapy.

Leeson said they were thinking of ways they could help fund cancer research and decided to make it fun by shaving their heads for money.

After that, he said, the event “snowballed” to include donations from several businesses and performances by local bands Euphoria, Harbor, The Alarmists and Honeydogs.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was also on hand to open the event by shaving both organizers’ heads.

“I think I got the better end of the stick, because I think that’s probably the worst haircut they’ve ever gotten,” he said.

“Kids on a college campus could be doing a lot of other things than raising money for a really worthwhile cause Ö It’s just one more example of the many great things that ‘U’ students are doing for the community.”

Leeson said another reason they decided to hold the fund-raiser was because Jenna Langer, a resident in Leeson’s hall, is a cancer survivor.

“She just went through chemotherapy, and she was bald for much of the year. And I felt really bad for her, you know, being in college and having to deal with that,” Leeson said.

Langer, who also spoke at the event, said she has an inoperable tumor on her brain but it has been in remission since Thanksgiving. She said the event was special because most fund-raisers get money for advocacy and for those already diagnosed with cancer.

“This is basically for prevention of cancer, so it’s really important,” Langer said. “It’s through events like this that I am here, just because they can raise money for innovative research.”

Pioneering research can often lead to major advances in efforts to fight cancer, said Paul Marker, who runs a lab in the Cancer Center that researches prostate cancer.

“The importance of this kind of fund raising is that it provides unrestricted money that can go to fund innovative pilot projects that are the types of projects that couldn’t find funding from any other source,” he said.

The Cancer Center is one of 39 centers nationwide that have a “comprehensive” designation from the National Cancer Institute, Marker said.

The distinction marks a “broad-based” approach to cancer that includes basic research, clinical practice and population-based studies, Marker said.

“By working as a comprehensive unit Ö we have the best opportunity to translate new discoveries that are made in a basic science study into new therapies,” he said.