SHIRLEY — Nicole Powell and her two children, Megan, 8, and Sean, 12, will be bald this summer. The three are having their heads shaved at the Kids’ Cancer Buzz-Off early next month at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
The June 3 event promises to be big, with a super-sized venue and celebrities, too.
And it’s for a very worthy cause.
Besides generating buzz, the “buzzees” who have signed up to shed their locks that day are fundraising to fight cancer and there’s an added incentive to sweeten the sacrifice.
With a $100 minimum set for participation, those who raise $1,500 in sponsored donations will be treated to breakfast with the event’s star spokesperson, Steve Gronkowski of the New England Patriots.
Organized by FirstGiving-One Mission Inc., a nonprofit childhood cancer foundation based in Westborough, event proceeds will go to Children’s Hospital Boston.
The extreme haircuts the Powells and other volunteers will be sporting this summer show support for children and families affected by this terrible disease, while money raised from the event benefits vital programs and services that are helping kids beat cancer.
Acknowledging that the physical ordeals and emotional and financial challenges pediatric cancer patients and their families face are “unimaginable,” One Mission is dedicated to providing them with “help, hope, care and support,” according to the organization’s website, firstgiving.com/onemission.
A family affair
During a recent interview at their home, the Powells shared their individual takes on the generous gesture they are about to make and why they want to do it.
Nicole, a clinical social worker at a veterans’ facility, was already a “Dream Maker” via monthly donations she has made to Children’s Hospital for the past three years. She’d started thinking about growing her short hair long to meet the requisite length for donating it through another program, she said, but since she colors her hair, the grow-out would take time.
Then, in March, while listening to the hospital’s annual telethon on her favorite radio station, she heard about the “Buzz-Off.” Nicole had found the vehicle she was looking for.
Nicole told the rest of the family. Her husband, Patrick, who already sports a buzz cut, was supportive even if he couldn’t join her, she said.
Patrick said he’s fine with the kids doing it, too.
Asked who volunteered first, Sean said he did, but Megan contradicted him. They hashed out the scenario before their mom settled the matter. Megan signed on first, she said.
But her first reaction was different.
When Megan found out what her mom planned to do, “she was shocked,” Nicole said. “I told her it was a decision for me, but kids with cancer don’t get to decide.” For them, hair loss isn’t a choice but a side-effect of treatment.
Megan, whose soft brown hair is about collar-length now, decided she wanted in.
Nicole agreed, but only after mulling the idea awhile. “They really shave it, so you have to be sure,” she told her daughter. “I gave her a week and a half to think about it,” she said.
Sean wanted to do it, too, so he let his short hair grow to a shaggy blonde mane that he tosses back from his face with a shake of his head.
They’re clearly both on board. But Nicole would like them to visit Children’s Hospital to get a sense of the work the hospital does and the good these donations will do. She’s looking to set up a tour for them, she said.
Asked if they had ever known anyone afflicted with a serious illness or disease like cancer, Megan said a girl in her Girl Scout troop was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
The troop may steer their next cookie drive to that cause, Nicole said.
Megan also said a boy at her school and the daughter of one of her teachers both had cancer.
Megan attends Page-Hilltop Elementary School in Ayer, where the family lived before moving to Shirley last year. The third-grader has a healthy after-school agenda that includes “Destination Imagination,” chorus, sports and drama.
Currently performing in “Godspell,” Megan also plays basketball and volleyball. She used to play baseball, she said, but her schedule was too tight this year.
Sean is in the seventh grade at Parker Charter School on Devens. He also likes sports and was on the local football team for awhile. He may take up baseball again, he said. He also has a musical bent, taking guitar lessons and teaching himself to play piano.
Asked if she has reservations, given their tender years, Nichole said both kids have seen videos to prepare them for the big day. She doesn’t know how many others their age are participating, though. “There was no age limit,” she said.
Once the hoopla is over, the three Powells’ shorn heads will advertise the cause.
“It’s a show of support,” Nicole said, adding that money raised by the event will be used for research programs at Children’s Hospital and to buy gift cards for visiting families. The program has raised $274,334 so far, she said.
Right now, though, they’re focused on the excitement of the Buzz-Off, coming up June 3.
It will be their first visit to Gillette Stadium, which was chosen for the event due to the size of the crowd. Now in its third year, the event started off with just 30 people, only one of whom was female. But so many folks signed up this year they had to find a bigger venue. Participation was capped at 203 teams.
“We’re a team,” Nicole said of the trio. “We’re Team Hope!”
There’s still time to pitch in for the cause. Anyone wishing to support the Powell’s in their effort to help kids with cancer can donate. Visit www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/nicolepowell/kidscancerbuzz-off.