Shear courage: SU library technician shaves head with group of 600 in support of cancer patients, St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Cathy Mulford sat at the bar at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant with a pint of Guinness and a shot of Jameson. She needed a little something to calm her nerves. She knew that she would be crying shortly.

A few moments later, after finishing her drinks, a deep voice came over the speaker system.

“Irish Power Hour team to the stage please,” the announcer said.

Mulford headed to the front and took a seat on the stage with eight other women. A woman with tattooed arms and hands draped a dark green cape around her shoulders, “St. Baldrick’s Foundation” written on the front of it. The woman wound Mulford’s hair into two ponytails on either side of her head.

A library technician at Syracuse University’s E.S. Bird Library, Mulford was one of 633 people who got their heads shaved on Sunday to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds research for childhood cancers, at the Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant.

“Oh my God,” Mulford said as she fussed with the green cape wrapped around her body.

“Are you ready?” the woman asked Mulford.

“I am,” Mulford said, nodding her head.

A loud, long “woo” filled the room from Mulford’s daughter and best friend, who were standing in front of Mulford recording the moment. A buzzing sound started.

“What is your name?” the announcer asked, holding a microphone up to her mouth.

“I’m Cathy,” she said.

“You’re Cathy?” he replied.

“I’m Cathy Mulford.”

“Cathy Mulford from the Irish Power Hour,” he said. “What’s your story? Why did you decide to do this?”

“I love to volunteer, for charities and things. And there’s my best friend, in front of me, Cheryl who survived cancer before I knew her,” Mulford said, not distracted by the buzzer running over her scalp. “And I’m a big fan of go big or stay home.”

Mulford’s best friend, Cheryl Pellizzari, who survived non-Hodgkin lymphoma, was her inspiration to raise money to help find cures for cancer.

“It’s only hair and to me it’s only hair, but it’s very significant to the ones that lose it,” Mulford said.

Spencer Bodian | Staff Photographer

Participants get their heads shaved at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant for a St. Baldrick’s shaving event. More than 600 people volunteered as “shavees” for the fundraiser, which raises money for childhood cancer research.

Mulford’s goal was to raise $1,109, in honor of Pellizari, whose birthday is Nov. 9. She exceeded her goal by $500. The Kitty Hoynes location raised a total of $417,714, putting it in fourth place for most money raised at a St. Baldrick’s event worldwide.

“I’m excited to participate in something so big,” Mulford said a few days before the event. “I’m excited because I think we can help.”

But she wasn’t always excited. A few years ago, she watched as her friend Erin Greco — who sat next to her this year — participated in this event. Mulford said she doesn’t know what clicked this year, but she said to herself, “I’m doing this.” She texted Greco and said, “I’m doing the shave with you.” That’s when she experienced “sign-up remorse.”

“I was really scared and nervous for about five days,” she said. “But as I told more people, I got more comfortable.”

The buzzer continued over her head, and a smile spread across her face.

“Here’s one,” the woman said, handing Mulford a foot-long, red ponytail. Another woman came over with a broom and began sweeping away the piles of hair that sat in front of the stage.

She grabbed hold of the ponytail with an open mouth. She let out a sigh and closed her eyes for a moment. She let out another sigh and the smile returned to her face.

She held up the ponytail, and the bar broke out in cheers. Her smile grew.

“That’s a lot of hair,” she said examining it as she lowered her arm.

“That’s only half,” the woman said.

Mulford looked around her. Her team had eight female members, all sitting by her side, getting their heads shaved with her. As Mulford looked around, she began laughing.

“Is this the new look for me?” she asked the crowd.

“You look great,” said her daughter, Natalie.

The woman handed her the second ponytail, and this time, Mulford shot it right up into the air.

“Number two!” she shouted.

The woman took a brush to her head to wipe off any left over hairs. Mulford’s eyes closed tightly but a smile was still on her face. She opened her eyes and ran her hand over her shaved head.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” she said.

“I have a mirror, do you want to see it too?” the woman asked.

“I don’t know,” Mulford said, breaking out into laughter. But she picked up the mirror and admired her new look. “I look kinda cute.”

Mulford took off the green cape and packed her ponytails into a zip lock bag. She jumped off the stage to hug her daughter and Pellizari.

As Mulford got ready to leave Kitty Hoynes, she didn’t experience any type of remorse.

“I’m good, I feel really good,” she kept saying. She held her bag of hair tightly, pointing out the gray hairs.

She headed to the door and acknowledged the cold chill of the Syracuse air on her newly bare head.

“I feel really cold,” she said. She laughed at the new feeling, and slipped a bright yellow hat over her head.


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