Father and daughter vow to trim locks together for cancer research

Elli Raffi hides behind a nervous smile as she sits in her dad’s office. Her wavy, brown hair falls past her shoulders and down the middle of her back. As she talks, she combs her fingers through it as if she’s getting one last feel before it’s gone.

“I’m excited because every single morning I hate how my hair looks,” Elli said. “When I get it cut, I won’t have to force my hair through a comb.”

Elli, 10, and her father, Henderson resident Alex Raffi, 45, are set to cut their hair with their Bald by Design teammates on March 1 at McMullan’s Irish Pub, 4650 W. Tropicana Ave., in honor of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money worldwide for childhood cancer research through volunteer head-shaving events.

Alex got involved with the organization six years ago when a family friend asked them to donate money.

“I thought it sounded easy. I mean, shave my head? I could do that,” he said. “It’s incredibly addicting once you get involved.”

Though Elli, a student at Wallin Elementary School, 2333 Canyon Retreat Drive, won’t fully shave her head, she plans to cut most of her hair off and donate it to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that collects hair to make wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy.

“I saw how much my dad was helping kids with cancer, and I wanted to be part of that, too,” Elli said. “I was on my knees begging my mom until she finally said, ‘Yes.’ “

While St. Baldrick’s volunteers can host events year-round, media manager Traci Shirk said most take place during March to coincide with the original St. Baldrick’s event or in September to honor Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“Last year we collected over $34 million from more than 1,300 events worldwide,” Shirk said. “The money is used specifically toward childhood cancer research, and we have about 10 grant categories that we fund.”

Although participants are not required to shave their heads, Shirk said more than 58,000 people shaved their heads last year. About 9,000 were women.

“We feel that head shaving is about standing in solidarity with kids who sometimes lose their hair during treatment,” Shirk said. “It’s a way to say being bald is beautiful.

“We also give buttons that say, ‘Ask me why I’m bald,’ in hopes that it’ll be a conversation starter and inspire others to get involved.”

According to Shirk, a child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes.

“One in five children diagnosed will not survive,” Shirk said. “Two in every three will grow up with complications caused from the treatments.”

According to McMullan’s owner Brian McMullan, the pub’s goal this year is to raise $500,000.

“Even if we raise only a dollar, it’s just closer to the target and helping cure this dreadful disease,” McMullan said. “It’s all for the kids.”

McMullan’s has hosted the event since 2007, raising almost $2.25 million for the foundation. According to Shirk, McMullan’s is usually one of the foundation’s top five donors.

“My wife and I lost our daughter to this horrible disease. She was 2½ when she passed away,” McMullan said. “Nobody should ever have to go through that, and that’s what we aim to do. We’re grateful for the help in the last seven years, and we look forward to another seven years.”

Though Elli is nervous about having short hair for the first time in her life, she is confident she’ll go through with it. She pinky-promised her dad to fully shave her head once she is a little older.

“I feel so lucky that she’s healthy,” Alex said. “I can’t even imagine or wrap my head around what these other parents feel on a daily basis. That is a big motivator for me.

“It’s not a big deal for a guy to do this, but for a 10-year-old girl, it is. I’m really proud of her.”

Nine Fine Irishmen at the New York-New York, Ri Ra at Mandalay Place and Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel are also scheduled to host events on March 1. For more information or to donate, visit stbaldricks.org.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

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