“PlanetHeads” will be appearing across Earth’s northern hemisphere on March 10 when Planet Head Day—a unique cancer fundraiser where people get their heads shaved and painted to look like planets—goes international. The 12th annual Planet Head Day will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Wieden Gymnasium, with a simultaneous event happening in Szczecin, Poland. This celebration of science education and cancer awareness, which is co-presented by UMPI and C-A-N-C-E-R [Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery in the U.S. and by Gryphius Institute and the University of Szczecin in Poland, is free and the public is invited to attend.
This international affair came together because of event co-organizer and co-founder Kevin McCartney’s recent Fulbright research year in Poland. During his time in Poland, he had his head shaved in support of the 2017 Planet Head Day in Maine. That sparked the inspiration to establish a similar event adapted to the Polish environment.
Gryphius Institute—headed by a Rotarian friend of McCartney, Michael Glueck—conducted a series of promotional events for the first Planet Head Day in Poland during the past 12 months, which were strongly supported by the Faculty of Geoscience at the University of Szczecin. Under the patronage of the City of Szczecin, Planet Head Day 2018 in Poland is the final event featuring many dignitaries from the world of education, health care, administration and sports in a celebration of science and social engagement. The city president, Piotr Krzystek, declared his readiness to have his head shaved in the first sitting together with McCartney, Glueck, and the president of Rotary Club Szczecin International, Matthias Schaedlich. All the funds raised by the PlanetHeads in Poland will be used for the urgent renovation of the children`s cancer hospital in Szczecin.
Because of the six-hour time difference, the head-shaving in Poland will begin at 4 p.m. local time. Planet Head Day activities in both locations will be simulcast, with McCartney providing an English introduction in Poland, and UMPI Professor Tomasz Herzog providing a Polish introduction in Maine. Other VIPs in the first sitting of five chairs in Maine will be: Presque Isle City Manager Martin Puckett, Caribou Rotarian John Swanberg, and Planet Head Day organizer Jim Stepp.
The second sitting of chairs will be prominent academics in both countries and then the chairs will be open for anyone wishing to recognize someone or fundraise for cancer charities. Since the establishment of Planet Head Day, more than 1,000 people have donned theatrical bald caps or had their heads shaved so they could have their favorite planet, dwarf planet, moon, comet or asteroid painted on their head. All told, the event has raised nearly $150,000 for local cancer education and relief, and has become one of the most widely known single-day fundraising events in northern Maine. Planet Head Day is the major fundraising event for C-A-N-C-E-R, an Aroostook County-based grassroots organization that assists cancer patients and their families.
C-A-N-C-E-R members have been working hard on planning for this year’s event in Presque Isle. 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 identified.
Susan Black, secretary for C-A-N-C-E-R, acknowledged the many people at UMPI and the community as a whole who have volunteered for this event and all those attending and participating Saturday. This includes Pizza Hut for providing food for the event. “We are neighbors helping neighbors in the County!” she said.
The March 10 event will include food, fun, door prizes, cake, and games for children. 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.
Planet Head Day in Maine over the past five years has seen more than 100 “PlanetHeads”, with about half opting for haircuts, and raised an average $20,000 per year. PlanetHeads have included community leaders, teachers, pastors, parents, children and faculty and students from the University. Many other local businesses and organizations participate in this event, often by raising money in support of a PlanetHead. This year, WAGM has been supporting the event with promotion and interviews that are helping 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 themselves into planets.
Live emceeing will be co-hosted by Michael Gudreau, who will also have his head shaved to become a PlanetHead, and WAGM’s Shawn Cunningham. Pizza Hut will once again provide free pizza. As in years past, a photographer will be on hand to 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 Jim Stepp at 207-554-7837 or Susan Black with C-A-N-C-E-R at 207-764-4647.
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.
Update: As of Sunday, March 11, more than $10,000 has been raised for Planet Head Day. Organizers anticipate more funds will come in during the next few weeks and then a final number will be announced.