What do space science education and cancer awareness have in common? They're both the focus of this 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 8th annual Planet Head Day takes place on Saturday, Feb. 15, 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 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 exceed the $25,000 raised in each of the last two years.
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 will go to support area community cancer patients in treatment. The group 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.
Planet Head Day is also part of a NASA-funded celebration of the University's involvement in the New Horizons space mission to Pluto, now only one year away from arrival at the dwarf planet. The event 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.
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-based displays and programs 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 more than $25,000. 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 Kevin McCartney, an organizer for the event and Director of UMPI's Northern Maine Museum of Science. 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 Ted Shapiro and UMPI student Andrew Hunt, and Pizza Hut will once again provide free pizza. The Caribou, Presque Isle and Houlton Pizza Huts have all been raising money ahead of the big day and the managers for the Presque Isle and Houlton stores have pledged to shave their heads for the cause, while the Caribou manager has opted for a bald cap.
Many other local businesses and organizations participate in this event, often by raising money in support of one of the planetheads. WAGM will be fundraising again this year as well, as will members of various churches and classrooms. Again this year, Lynwood Winslow of Presque Isle will volunteer his laptop, camera, and printing technology to photograph each planethead and produce a special certificate for them to take home. For more information about participating in the event or to assist with the head painting, contact McCartney at 207-768-9482 or Jeanie McGowan at 207-768-9747.
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. 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 Calabrese at 764-0766.