Duke PA Students Raise More Than $12,000 for Childhood Cancer Research

Thursday, June 27, 2019
By Kailey Redding, Steady Society President, Class of 2020
head shaving for St. Baldrick's
Duke PA students get their heads shaved as a fundraiser for St. Baldrick's Foundation.

Students in the Duke Physician Assistant Program have raised $12,956 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to funding childhood cancer research grants.

Duke PA students, faculty, and staff gathered on April 28 with members of the community to celebrate the annual “Brave the Shave” day to raise money for childhood cancer research. The afternoon’s honorees included Jack Goldstein and Greg Williams, who shared the memory of Jillian Rey-Catherine Williams. The event included a large raffle, face painting, corn hole, and special appearances from the Durham Fire Department, Durham Police Department & K9 Unit, and the Durham Sheriff’s Department. Over 40 men, women and children shaved their heads for the kids that afternoon.

Rachel Porter was largest fundraiserThe PA program proudly and loudly showed its support as the program’s educational technology specialist Rachel Porter, Ph.D., and two students, Joseph Banham and Ashish Chaudhary, shaved their heads in solidarity with childhood cancer patients. Two other students, Breanne Lane and Sarah Dunn, each donated over 10 inches of hair each to Wigs for Kids. Beards were not off limits, as one classmate’s husband, Pete Robinson, offered his beard up for shaving! Another student who could not attend the day’s event, Jacob Darr, shared a video of himself shaving his head with his class to show his support.

All of the money raised for this event went directly toward funding research for treatments and cures of childhood cancer with the goal of giving kids happier, healthier lives. Rachel O’Keefe chaired the class’s St. Baldrick’s committee and, with the help of her committee members, organized a number of fundraisers throughout the spring to aid in this cause. A highly competitive penny wars took place in the Duke PA building over the course of two weeks in March, which resulted in a group of students and one faculty member being pied in the face by other classmates. Next, the Class of 2020 took over Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub for a spirit night. Just a week before the big day, the class hosted a “Pour, Score & Raffle” event at the West 94th Street Pub. Goofy guest bartenders, trivia, and exciting raffle prizes allowed us to raise almost $1,000 in under two hours.

face painting at the shave-a-thonFinally, committee member Taylor Bell organized a canning day, in which a group of students from the class of 2020 dressed up in costumes and danced around downtown Durham with signs to solicit donations from community members. PA students, faculty and staff participated in all of these activities, as well as fundraising on their own. Nineteen students raised $50 or more, five of whom each raised over $500. Porter was awarded a medal for being the largest fundraiser at the event, reaching over $5,000.

Our fearless leader, Rachel O’Keefe, shares a heartwarming story about her experience that day while volunteering at the registration table: “A very generous gentleman heard about the event and showed up on the day of to shave his head for the kids, despite his own battle with cancer. He told me that he doesn't want people to feel bad for him, because he had lived his life, but felt bad for the kids that hadn't had a chance to live theirs. Someone at the event donated an additional $1,000 to this gentleman fundraising for him to shave his mustache, as well.”

This is the Duke Physician Assistant Program’s eighth year participating in fundraising for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Previous years combined have raised approximately $140,000.