PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When organizers of the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Planet Head Day fundraiser first conceived of the idea five years ago, they figured it would raise awareness about cancer. They also expected to raise a few hundred dollars for an organization that assists those who suffer from cancer.
They had no idea, however, that Planet Head Day eventually would become a massive fundraiser for C-A-N-C-E-R, Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery, bringing in more than $15,000 for the organization last weekend.
Planet Head Day was held on Saturday inside UMPI’s Gentile Hall. The fifth annual event was designed to improve awareness of space exploration as well as cancer.
During the event, barbers and hairdressers were on hand to shave people’s heads so that volunteers could paint their heads to look like planets, dwarf planets and moons. People who didn’t want to have their heads shaved could don elastic swim caps and have those painted.
Approximately 65 people showed up for the event, Dr. Kevin McCartney, event organizer and a professor of geology at UMPI, said Monday.
“Each year, this event has doubled in size and in the amount of money it has raised for C-A-N-C-E-R,” he said. “We are so happy with the results we saw over the weekend. We had the lobby and most of the basketball court at UMPI full of people and displays and food and drinks that were donated to us. In the beginning, this was just an event where we had a little jar out asking for donations. Now it has become C-A-N-C-E-R’s biggest fundraiser.”
The buzz cuts were provided by Patrick Coughlin of Parsons Street Barbershop and by Amanda Durost and Donna Raymond from Great Beginnings Hair Boutique. Eight volunteer artists painted heads. McCartney said that about half of the 65 planet heads were shaved for the event with the others donning caps. All eight planets and dwarf planet Pluto were represented on people’s heads by the time the event wrapped up.
McCartney said that two participants, Brian Hamel, managing partner at Thompson-Hamel in Presque Isle, and Father Jean-Paul Labrie of Parish of the Precious Blood, each raised more than $5,000 for the event. Both men were among the many participants who asked friends, relatives and colleagues to sponsor their heads by pledging monetary donations. McCartney said that Hamel sent out a mass e-mail to get sponsors, even letting them choose which planet he would have his head painted to resemble. Father Labrie turned to his congregation, which combines 10 Catholic churches in the Presque Isle-Caribou-Limestone area, for support.
Many of the participants came to have their heads shaved and painted in honor or in memory of loved ones who have either died or are in treatment. Some participants were themselves cancer survivors.
“I think this event keeps growing because everyone knows someone who has cancer or who has suffered with the disease,” said McCartney. “As word of mouth about our event has grown, people have realized it is a really neat way to raise money for a worthwhile organization while also learning about planets and science and space exploration.”
Displays by UMPI’s Astronomy Club, New Horizons spacecraft mission to Pluto, The Aroostook Medical Center and C-A-N-C-E-R were set up for the participants and their families to enjoy while attending the event. A giant birthday cake for Pluto was on hand, and the Presque Isle and Caribou Pizza Huts again donated pizzas for the event.
This year’s shaved heads included pastors from three area churches, Grant Memorial Methodist Church, Presque Isle Congregational Church and the Parish of the Precious Blood. Four faculty members from UMPI also shaved their heads. McCartney said that approximately a third of the planet heads were children, including seven members of Mapleton Brownie Troop 1133.
McCartney said Planet Head Day organizers, with C-A-N-C-E-R chairwoman Louise Calabrese, already are making plans for an even bigger event next February.
Organizers hope to bring in more than $25,000 next year.
“It will be a challenge, but I think that we can do it,” McCartney said Monday. “The sky is the limit.”