This February, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, C-A-N-C-E-R [Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery], and community members will kick off a new decade of close-shaving, head-painting, fundraising planetary fun when they celebrate the 11th annual Planet Head Day. The region’s most unique fundraiser, which brings together space science education and cancer awareness, will be held on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Wieden Gymnasium. This not-to-be-missed celebration is free and the public is invited to attend.
“Planet Head Day has always worked so well because of the strong support by community leaders in northern Maine,” said past event co-organizer with C-A-N-C-E-R Louise Cardone-Calabrese.
This year’s event is being held in honor of the inspiration for Planet Head Day, Jeanie McGowan, who passed away from cancer last year. McGowan helped to coordinate many Planet Head Day events and administered the educational grant that allowed UMPI and Planet Head Day to be involved in the NASA New Horizons space mission to Pluto.
Since the event’s establishment, nearly 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.
For the first time in a decade, event co-organizer and co-founder Kevin McCartney won’t be joining in the Presque Isle festivities. On a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant to Poland to continue his research in the field of micropaleontology, McCartney is taking Planet Head Day international by organizing a celebration with colleagues in Poland. McCartney originally planned to have his head shaved on Feb. 18 with video Skyped to the event in Maine, but the event in Poland has been scheduled for March 11, so he will continue to grow his hair for that event.
“All Planet Head Day events are different from one another, but this one perhaps especially so since both Jeanie and I will be gone,” McCartney said. “But I am very happy that Jim Stepp will be the University spokesperson and organizer for the event.”
Stepp is the UMPI Dean of Students and a lifelong Astronomy enthusiast; he and his son have served as PlanetHeads on several occasions. Stepp will be painted as Pluto this year, as McCartney has done for 10 years. In a special twist to this year’s event, Stepp is putting his full head of hair on the line to help with fundraising. Stepp hasn’t shaved his beard and mustache combination off in more than 20 years, but is willing to do so for a good cause. If he can raise $1,000, he’ll shave his head (instead of donning a bald cap); if he can raise $2,000, he’ll shave his head and beard; $3,000 means his mustache will go, too; and if he can raise $5,000, he’ll shave off his head, beard, mustache and eyebrows and have his entire head and face painted as Pluto.
“C-A-N-C-E-R does very valuable work in the County and I am more than happy to help out,” Stepp said. “Putting my hair on the line is a small price to pay in helping them raise funds for the work they do. I have known many people who have had cancer, some who have died and some who are survivors. My mother was a cancer survivor. I wish there was a group like C-A-N-C-E-R around when my mother was ill.”
Planet Head Day is held each year near the February 18th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto in 1930. C-A-N-C-E-R board members are excited to present this event for the eleventh time. 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.
This year’s Planet Head Day will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. with food, fun, a 50/50 drawing, door prizes, cake, and games for children. The event also provides science and cancer education. 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 $11,000. PlanetHeads have included community leaders, teachers, pastors, parents, and faculty and students from the University. 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 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. NAPA, in cooperation with Clukey’s Auto Parts, is also a sponsor for this year’s event.
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 Stepp at 207-768-9601 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.