Officials with the University of Maine at Presque Isle and C-A-N-C-E-R are pleased to announce that the 7th Annual Planet Head Day raised more than $22,000 for the local cancer organization. Dozens of community members shaved their heads (or donned bald caps) and had them painted as planets, moons and comets for the region's most unique fundraiser, which brings together space science education and cancer awareness into a single package.
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 organization that assists cancer patients and their families. All monies raised during Planet Head Day will go to support area community cancer patients in treatment. C-A-N-C-E-R, a local organization made up entirely of volunteers—from its board to individual members, strives to help patients with travel expenses and other treatment-related expenses that are not covered by insurance or other programs. It has also, in special circumstances, helped in other appropriate ways to bridge gaps in the patient's financial situation until a more permanent solution can be secured.
"Every year, Planet Head Day takes on a different spirit, and this year's spirit was 'A Love-In,'" Louise Calabrese, C-A-N-C-E-R chairperson, said. "Local residents are always ready to help, when they know there is need, and we all know there is a need. But how do you measure success? By being in Wieden Hall and watching and listening to this new strong awareness that together we can help each other. And, everyone realizing that their donation is staying right here. This is truly about neighbors helping neighbors."
There was lots to do and see at this year's Planet Head Day, which took place on Saturday, Feb. 16, in UMPI's Wieden Gymnasium. Community members from throughout Maine and nearby Canada stopped by the University to enjoy the afternoon of food, fun, and science and cancer education.
There were more than 100 "planetheads" of all ages orbiting around the gym, with Mars being the most popular planet this year. Crowds gathered around a row of barber chairs to watch one brave soul after another sit down and get a free haircut—a very close shave—from the staff of the Parsons Street Barber Shop and Great Beginnings Hair Boutique. Theatrical "bald" caps offered a less permanent option for participants. The resulting bald heads were in recognition of and support for the many cancer patients who lose their hair during cancer treatment.
At a nearby cluster of tables, artists and planet head painters were on hand to transform those blank canvases into the celestial body of each person's choosing, employing imaginative painting techniques and even hand-crafted cardboard rings for those opting to be Saturn. Money for the "bald" caps and paints were provided by a grant from NASA. The event is scheduled each year for the weekend closest to the anniversary of the discovery date for the dwarf planet Pluto (Feb. 18, 1930) and is part of the University's educational outreach for the New Horizons program.
Around the room, there was an assortment of displays related to C-A-N-C-E-R's efforts, space education, and even ACAP's smoking cessation program. In one corner, the Knotty Knitters had a table set up with knit caps available for free to anyone who shaved their head that day. In another, Lynwood Winslow of Presque Isle was again volunteering his time, laptop, camera, and printing technology to photograph each planethead and produce a certificate for each participant to take home. In the middle of the room, WAGM's Ted Shapiro and UMPI student Andrew Hunt returned to emcee this year's event. And at the far end of the gym, Pizza Hut once again provided free pizza. To add to the aroma, this year Clukey's Auto Supply Store provided fresh popped popcorn.
New this year, C-A-N-C-E-R organizers sold paper hearts to be posted on the gym walls with messages to cancer survivors and in memory of loved ones. Also, music was provided by local DJ Steve Boddy, which inspired a little dancing from the younger crowd.
This year's major supporters included Chris Weimer and the WAGM News team; together they raised $6,000 after Weimer pledged to shave his head again this year if they could meet that fundraising goal. Other individuals who did very serious fundraising for the event included Brian Hamel, whose friends and colleagues have raised considerable money over the past several years to see Brian's bald head, which this year was painted as Pluto. The Catholic Church "Parish of the Precious Blood," in conjunction with four Councils of the Knights of Columbus, also conducted major fundraising efforts. Seven Knights volunteered to have their heads shaved in place of Father Jean-Paul Labrie, pastor, who has been doing this for the past two years. So far, they have contributed over $4,800 with more expected. Pastor Ronald Chaffee, of Grant Memorial United Methodist Church, raised funds, too, and had his head shaved. Michaela Dube painted his head after services the Sunday after Planet Head Day.
Planet Head Day was originally established as a NASA-funded celebration of the University's involvement in the New Horizons space mission to Pluto, which is now only two years away from its arrival.
"Planet Head Day has grown considerably every year," said Kevin McCartney, who coordinates the event for UMPI's Northern Maine Museum of Science. He was especially gratified to see the large number of kids who came, often to have their own heads shaved. "These kids will have lifelong memories about the importance of science, cancer and community service in our lives."
A video of this year's Planet Head Day activities, provided by Frank Grant of Grant Visuals, will be available soon on youtube.com. Even though Planet Head Day is over, you can still make a donation to C-A-N-C-E-R. Donations can be sent directly to C-A-N-C-E-R, P.O. Box 811, Presque Isle, ME 04769, or call Calabrese at 764-0766.