Space science education and cancer awareness will come together for the region’s most unique fundraiser, Planet Head Day, where participants raise money for a local cancer organization by having their heads shaved and painted as planets, dwarf planets, moons, comets and asteroids. Aroostook County’s 9th annual Planet Head Day takes place on Saturday, Feb. 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Wieden Gymnasium. This not-to-be-missed event is free and the public is invited to attend.
Planet Head Day is the major fundraising event for C-A-N-C-E-R [Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery], an Aroostook County-based grassroots organization that assists cancer patients and their families. In just a few short years, Planet Head Day has become one of the most widely known single-day fundraising events in northern Maine. This year, organizers hope to raise about $25,000.
C-A-N-C-E-R board members are excited about this year’s event because of all the support and volunteer efforts. All monies raised during Planet Head Day stay in the County and help those recently diagnosed with cancer or who are in treatment for cancer. C-A-N-C-E-R strives to help patients with travel expenses and other treatment-related expenses. It has also, in special circumstances, helped in other appropriate ways to bridge gaps until other secure agency solutions can be secured.
“This event is for the County,” Louise Cardone-Calabrese, C-A-N-C-E-R chair of Planet Head Day, said. “Please remember, because of the privacy laws, we can only find about patients by ‘word of mouth’ so if you know of someone recently diagnosed or in treatment, please call Sue Nickerson at 764-6824 or Craig Green at 762-6500.”
Planet Head Day is also part of a NASA-funded celebration of the University’s involvement in the New Horizons space mission to Pluto, a point of special significance as the space craft arrives at the dwarf planet this year on July 15. Planet Head Day is held each year near the February 18th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto in 1930. The University’s Northern Maine Museum of Science has always sought imaginative ways to teach science and developed the program to combine science and cancer education into a single package.
“This event is originally inspired by our County’s construction of what remains the largest solar system scale model in this hemisphere and the educational outreach for the New Horizon spacecraft mission to Pluto,” Kevin McCartney, an organizer for the event and Director of UMPI’s Northern Maine Museum of Science, said. “Planet Head Day continues our tradition of innovative-while-inexpensive science education. Our County kids have opportunities to learn about the solar system perhaps better than can be found in any other rural region of the United States.”
On Planet Head Day, community members from throughout Maine and nearby Canada come to the University to enjoy an afternoon of food, fun, and science and cancer education—there will be an assortment of space and cancer information at the event—and, best of all, a wild assortment of celestial bodies to be found on people’s heads. The staff of the Parsons Street Barber Shop and Great Beginnings Hair Boutique will be available again this year to provide free haircuts for those willing to shave their heads for the occasion, while “bald” caps will offer a less permanent option for participants. The bald heads that result are in recognition of and support for the many cancer patients who lose their hair during cancer treatment.
Last year’s Planet Head Day saw more than 100 “planetheads”, with about half opting for haircuts, and raised about $19,000. Planetheads have included community leaders, teachers, pastors, parents, and faculty and students from the University. Each year, a significant number of planetheads have been children, explained McCartney. These children learn things about science, cancer and community service that will be carried with them for the rest of their lives, he said.
Live emceeing will again be presented by WAGM’s Chief Meteorologist Ted Shapiro, and Pizza Hut will once again provide free pizza. The Caribou and Presque Isle Pizza Huts have been raising money ahead of the big day and the manager for the Presque Isle store, Chris Thomas, has pledged to shave his head for the cause.
Many other local businesses and organizations participate in this event, often by raising money in support of one of the planetheads. This year, WAGM has been supporting this event with promotion and extensive interviews in recent weeks that have helped to spread the word. The WAGM-TV 8 news team will be in attendance at the event, helping to raise funds and donning bald caps to transform into planets. There will also be members representing various churches in attendance to support the event that helps local neighbors working through cancer.
New this year, students Renee Browning, Kate Leavitt and Elizabeth Butterfield, with the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center’s SkillsUSA organization, will take before and after photographs of each planethead so participants can have a keepsake to take home. For more information about participating in the event or to assist with the head painting, contact McCartney at 207-768-9482, Jeanie McGowan at 207-768-9747, or Cardone-Calabrese at 764-0766.
Money for the paints and theatrical “bald” caps is provided by a grant from NASA. Videos of past Planet Head Days, provided by Frank Grant, can be seen on youtube.com.
“This year, C-A-N-C-E-R’s committee, UMPI, and everyone involved in the planning has really outdone themselves hoping to make this a fun day, a ‘love-in day’ for everyone of all ages,” Cardone-Calabrese said.
For those who cannot attend the festivities, donations can be sent directly to C-A-N-C-E-R, P.O. Box 811, Presque Isle, ME 04769, or call Louise Cardone-Calabrese at 764-0766.