By Frank Ready
Each spring, Kline is greeted with sympathetic words and kind gestures from members of her local parish, who assume that her newly chrome dome is the result of chemotherapy.
“I have a button that says, ‘Ask me why I’m bald,’ but nobody wants to ask you. I think they’re afraid of what the answer might be. Everybody assumes that you have some kind of cancer,” Kline said.
For the last seven years, Kline, an employee of Onondaga-Cortland-Madison (OCM) BOCES and the Onondaga County Public Library, has shaved her head in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity dedicated to combating cancer in children. Participants from across the country collect pledges from friends, relatives and co-workers in return for a quick trip underneath the shears.
The Syracuse chapter of the event is hosted by Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant in Syracuse, which has served as an impromptu barbershop for Kline and roughly 475 other participants every March. According to event organizer Sophia Meskos, Kitty Hoynes has helped raise over $1,849,800 in funding.
But for Kline, baldness isn’t just about the money and glory.
Some of the parishioners who approach Kline at church wish to offer more than their condolences. They want to share their stories and the ways in which cancer has touched the lives of those closest to them.
“Everybody knows somebody. If it hasn’t affected them or their family, it’s been a close friend,” Kline said.
Kline’s granddaughter Brianna was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 6. Brianna, who is currently studying health science and languages at Brockport State University, endured two and a half years of treatment that thinned her hair and stole her eyebrows before the cancer went into remission.
“Brianna is a success story,” Kline said. “So many of the friends that she met through treatment have passed away.”
It was Brianna’s mother, Heather, who convinced Kline to participate.
“Everybody kept saying, ‘Do you have any scars on your head? What’s your head shaped like?’” Kline said.
But before any hair could be shed, she first had to address the issue of fundraising. Each year Kline sets out to raise $1,000 in contributions, soliciting friends and family through email and placing signs in the employee break rooms at BOCES and the library. Donations can also be made directly through her page at www.stbaldricks.org.
When the time finally arrived for Kline’s inaugural shave, Brianna was given the honor of taking the first swipe of the shears, the beginning of an extreme buzz cut that would take three to four months to return to its former glory.
“I think she looks really good bald. I’m so proud of her for doing it over and over again,” Brianna said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: St. Baldrick’s Foundation participants shave their heads to raise funds for children with cancer.
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 25
WHERE: Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant, Syracuse
TO DONATE: Go to www.stbaldricks.org