Whitney Johnson gets her head shaved with a big smile during the St. Baldrick’s Foundation charity event to help raise funds to support childhood cancer research. The event was held at Celestial Seasonings in Boulder Saturday March 12, 2011. Chancey Bush/ The Camera ( Chancey Bush )
The first time Whitney Johnson shaved her head, it was the result of an unfortunate fashion decision. And no one donated $1,300 to her cause.
The Boulder woman, then in college, thought it was a groovy idea to braid her wavy brown hair and let it tangle its way into dreadlocks.
Now, a fair number of Boulder residents know what happened next, because so many Boulder residents have at some point sported the dreads. Whereas other municipalities have official “state birds” or flowers or mottos, Boulder boasts an official community hairstyle. (Incidentally, the dreadlock is also Boulder’s official marmot.)
As is the ending of every dreadlocky tale, when Johnson returned home for Thanksgiving, her mom drove her straight to the stylist and had the hairy worms shaved off her scalp. There was otherwise no escape; to change your mind on this hairstyle is harder than getting a divorce, or power-lifting weights to light jazz music, or carrying a 1-year-old and hefty diaper bag while wearing 6-inch stilettos (as my twisted ankle can attest).
Johnson went hairless in exchange for her mother’s assuagement.
This month, at age 32, Johnson is fur-free again. And this time, her motive is even greater than ridding the world of yet one more rastafaregret.
Johnson, along with more than 300 other Boulder residents, shaved her head to raise money for research, support and awareness of different forms of childhood cancer.
The movement, which goes by St. Baldrick’s, is simple: Participants ask people to donate money, and in exchange, they’ll go under the clipper. Boulder’s volunteers ranged from women to children to families to men. All of the Boulder participants listed on the St. Baldrick’s Web site raised more than $82,000, as of last week.
Johnson alone raised more than $1,300. She says she decided to participate because she works with children in her nutrition practice (Trustyourgutnutrition.com), and she liked the idea of a fundraiser with staying power. It’s not a one-time check, or a race with a definitive finish line.
Every time that Johnson looks in the mirror, every time she meets someone new or does a presentation, she will remember the cause. Like many other St. Baldrick’s fundraisers, she will wear a pin that says, “Ask me why I’m bald,” and she’ll use the opportunity to spread awareness, and hopefully move one step closer to an eventual cure.
Johnson’s “volunteer work” will last between eight months to a year, depending on how quickly her hair grows back this time. She’s not looking forward to the awkward growth phases. And there are many of them, she says.
Johnson’s husband shaved his head, too. Although his follicular loss wasn’t as dramatic as Johnson’s shoulder-length sacrifice, he nonetheless raised money.
Oliver Johnson didn’t lose his full beard, though.
Now the only thing this software engineer needs is a leather jacket with some patches and a big metal hog. And at least for the next year, he wouldn’t have to worry about his lady’s hair getting tangled in the wind and accidentally forming dreadlocks.
Now that’s tough.
For more informationabout St. Baldrick’s, check outStbaldricks.org.