‘Bald is beautiful’ challenge benefits local Relay for Life team

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May 26, 2016

Take a moment to imagine the iconic scene from the 1997 movie, G.I. Jane where Demi Moore shaves her head to gain respect as a trainee in the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL school.

Her choice to shave her head was inspiring and empowering, but what if you didn’t have a choice about losing your hair? What if the choice was made for you by cancer?

“Twenty-one years ago, when my wife Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer, I recall a conversation we had just days before her surgery, radiation, and chemo treatment began,” said Jeff Sherman founder and owner of AVIAN. “While I’m sure there were many things going on in her mind, her biggest concern at this point in time was that she would be losing her hair.”

With that memory in mind, Sherman decided he would create a ‘bald is beautiful’ fundraising challenge in support of the American Cancer Society and the local Relay for Life.

“The ‘winner’ has to have their head shaved,” Sherman said. “A minor, temporary inconvenience, compared to the challenges faced by those who are fighting or have fought this disease. Additionally, once the new look is donned, the winner will spend a couple of hours in public wearing a sandwich board with the caption ‘I support a cancer fighter. Join me in the fight against cancer.”

The challenge started in mid-January and continued through mid-May. Employees began sharing stories of their own personal connections to the disease and soon realized that cancer was a link that far too many shared.

Each day employees were encouraged to pledge money to anyone within the company they wanted to have their head shaved, but their pledges could not exceed five dollars per person, per day. At the end of the challenge, the person with the most money pledged to their name, or head, would be the winner.

Some employees chose to spread their money evenly across groups of people, while others formed teams and planned targeted pledges for particular individuals.

“It was very apparent that there was some behind the scenes coordination when I received an overwhelming amount of votes one day,” said John Slaughter, challenge runner up and AVIAN’s vice president of business development.

Within days, hundreds of dollars had been raised. Within a month, almost everyone in the company had at least a five dollars pledged on their head, with many already into double digits.

The challenge finally came to a close Wednesday, May 18. The top five employees had nearly $3,000 toward them, but it was ultimately Jeff Sherman who received the most pledges.

In the company of AVIAN supporters, Sherman shaved his head Wednesday, May 25. Among those supporters was Cindy Mattingly, an AVIAN employee currently battling breast cancer.

“When diagnosed with cancer this winter, I decided to attack it head-on,” Mattingly said. When Sherm announced the challenge shortly after, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Watching him have his head shaved was emotional; I relived the moment when I had mine shaved a few short months ago.”

The entire bald is beautiful challenge raised more than $6,800, which was applied to AVIAN’s Relay for Life team. “I am absolutely amazed at my teammates’ generosity to support finding a cure for the millions battling each day,” Mattingly said.

“This challenge motivated the staff to take a deeper look at the ‘why’ behind our fundraising while making a big impact monetarily,” said Kelly Perry, AVIAN’s director of human resources. “Our company philosophy is that we take care of each other. The employee participation in this challenge is a testament to that.”

AVIAN has been a corporate sponsor of Relay for Life St. Mary’s County for many years. In 2014, the company’s enthusiasm was brought to life in the form of team AVIAN Celebrates Life when AVIAN lost a teammate in his fight against cancer.

“Each day, AVIAN remembers our teammate, Jeff Bringle, and his courageous fight and contagious smile,” Sherman said. “Through this event, we celebrate the difference he made for his country, his family and his community.”

This year, the company rallied behind the AVIAN Celebrate Life team once again not only in remembrance of Jeff, but for additional AVIAN teammates who are currently battling cancer.

AVIAN Celebrates Life is comprised of survivors, caregivers, seasoned participants and new supporters to the world’s largest fight against cancer.

The team has raised over $14,000 to date, which is almost triple their original goal of $5,000. The team hopes to break through the $15,000 mark.

“I could not be more proud of the AVIAN workforce rallying behind this worthy cause,” Sherman said. Although I won the challenge, the real winners are all those loved ones who have ever fought this terrible disease.”

About Relay for Life – St. Mary’s County

The 19th annual Relay for Life of St. Mary’s County will be held from 4 p.m. to midnight on June 4, 2016 to fight back, remember and celebrate the lives affected by cancer.

Held at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown, Maryland, hundreds of people will take to the track for an eight hour journey to raise funds, build camaraderie, and parallel the physical effects, emotions and mental state of a cancer patient while undergoing treatment.

Each at their own pace, countless participants will go around the track, lap after lap, throughout the evening as a unified group with one mission – to finish the fight.

Relay is an occasion to express hope and a shared goal to end a disease that threatens the lives of so many people. Saving lives from cancer starts with one team, one participant, and one dollar at a time.

To help us reach our goal, check out this link: http://bit.ly/25hTp4w.


For additional information:

Tara N. Strickland

Director of Communications