ECU’s Pirates Vs. Cancer event raises more than $24K

Music from a live band pumped through speakers outside of ECU’S Health Sciences Student Center on Friday afternoon, as gusting winds provided relief from the eastern North Carolina springtime heat and carried clumps of hair through the air.

The hair trimmings were an unavoidable byproduct of the second annual Pirates Vs. Cancer event organized by ECU health sciences students.

Tzion Caffee gives Chip Stewart a trim.

Tzion Caffee gives Chip Stewart a trim.

Another, better byproduct was the more than $24,000 the students raised – with support from ECU faculty, alumni and community members – to help fund child life programs at Vidant Medical Center and national pediatric brain tumor research.

Brody School of Medicine alum Dr. Kirk Jones takes part in the 2018 Pirates Vs. Cancer fundraiser.

Brody School of Medicine alum Dr. Kirk Jones takes part in the 2018 Pirates Vs. Cancer fundraiser.

“The response from the faculty, staff, Vidant and Brody, as well as the dental and nursing schools has been phenomenal. We couldn’t have put it on without them,” said Marissa Burchette, a second-year medical student at Brody and the president of Pirates Vs. Cancer.

The fundraiser’s main event featured more than 30 students, faculty and alumni from ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, College of Nursing and School of Dental Medicine having their hair shaved or cut on stage by a team of stylists from Salon 1025, with some assistance from pediatric cancer patients.

Last year’s inaugural Pirates Vs. Cancer event raised approximately $7,500.

The organizers of this year’s event increased their fundraising goal three times – from their initial goal of $15,000 to $25,000 – because their fundraising efforts kept surpassing their expectations.

“It’s really important to raise awareness for childhood cancer, particularly through Vs. Cancer because they give 50 percent of their donations to national research efforts and the other 50 percent goes here, to the Maynard Children’s Hospital,” Burchette said. “It’s important for us to not only give back to our own community… but also to give back to national research efforts so that a cure can be found.”

The Raleigh-based Vs. Cancer Foundation is a signature fundraising campaign of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

Alberto Castro, a second-year medical student at Brody, had a thick headful of hair before he walked onto the Pirates Vs. Cancer stage. Minutes later, his stylish comb-over hairdo was replaced with a buzz cut fit for a military boot camp.

Alberto Castro reacts to his cut.

Alberto Castro reacts to his cut.

“I have the choice to buzz my head. But people with cancer, when they go through chemotherapy, they don’t have these choices,” Castro said. “So I just wanted to make a stand and say, ‘It is OK what you’re going through, because we’re here standing with you.’”

Dr. Kori Brewer, associate professor in Brody’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said she decided to get several inches of her hair chopped off for charity after seeing how excited and passionate her students were about the Pirates Vs. Cancer fundraiser.

“I kind of got caught up in their excitement,” Brewer said. “I think it’s fantastic that you can do something locally that benefits locally. The school is all about community service and benefitting your immediate community. So this is a great way these students have found to really do that and I couldn’t be happier with them.”

Dr. Kirk Jones, an emergency physician at Wayne UNC Health Care and Brody alumnus, was this year’s top individual fundraiser, raising nearly $4,000.

In preparation for the event, Jones grew out his hair to the longest it had ever been in his life. During the event, he also shaved off his beard and then – after challenging the students to raise another $20 during the event – his eyebrows.

Lacie Wallace reacts to getting her hair cut.

Lacie Wallace reacts to getting her hair cut.

“As an emergency physician, I do from time to time make the diagnosis of cancer and it’s horrible. Notifying families that their child has a brain tumor is absolutely horrible,” Jones said. “It’s important to have resources to help make sure all these children get top-notch care. So when you tell a person that their child has a brain tumor, you don’t just drop a bomb on them. You have to have resources immediately available and this (event) helps to achieve that goal.”

To donate to Pirates Vs. Cancer, visit: https://bit.ly/2EDO1jV

To see more photos from Pirates Vs. Cancer 2018, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ECUBrodySOM/