For the seventh year, the Connor family of Northport is embracing what’s become a family tradition: The five family members are shaving their heads together to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and this year they will also be crowned “Knights of the Bald Table” to mark their dedication to the charity that supports childhood cancer research.
Sarah Connor, 18, is flying home from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she is a freshman, to participate with her parents, Amy and Gene, and her younger brothers, 15-year-old twins James and William, who are freshmen at Northport High School.
The family will be going bald on March 10 at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Northport. Anybody who shaves their heads seven times is knighted with a sword and proclamation; the Connors will be knighted in an official ceremony later in the day.
St. Baldrick’s has been raising money through grass roots head-shaving events since 2000 and has raised $347 million, says Traci Shirk, director of media and storytelling for the California-based charity. Because the first event took place on St. Patrick’s Day, half of the 1,200 annual local shaving events occur during the month of March, she says. The name of the charity is a combination of bald and St. Patrick’s.
The first time that members of the Connor family shaved their heads en masse in 2011, Sarah was 11 and in sixth grade and the twins were 8 and in second grade. The Connor males had all pledged to shave their heads. Amy Connor told the family: “If you all agree to do it, including Sarah, I’ll do it, too.” She thought Sarah would say no. “But she said yes,” Amy says.
“She thought I was going to be the last line of defense,” jokes Sarah. She says she was “sort of scared” going into the event the first time, but has gotten used to the annual shearing. “It was an adjustment, definitely, going from shoulder-length hair to no hair at all. I wore hats most of the time,” Sarah says.
The family started the tradition after four of Gene Connor’s family members — his mother and three of his sisters — were all diagnosed with different cancers in a two-year period, Amy says. The extended family is far-flung, so the Connors weren’t able to offer the everyday kind of help families usually provide. “Let us take care of you, we’ll make you dinner, we’ll take you to chemo, we couldn’t do that stuff,” says Amy, 57, a stay-at-home mom and freelance theater director.
So instead, they raise money. “They all came through it, came through the treatments,” Gene says of his family members. “Out of gratitude for that, I started doing events myself.” They skipped the shaving ritual in 2012 because Gene, 55, who runs the theater program at Syosset High School, instead rode his bicycle cross-country to raise money. But they resumed the shaving in 2013 and have continued each year since.
“It’s always interesting to lose all my hair at once,” says James. His twin, William, says that shaving their heads makes the two look more different, not more alike, because their eye color becomes more noticeable. “He’s brown, I’m blue,” William says.
The family doesn’t get too many double takes when they’re out together in Northport post-shaving because so many people in the community also shave their heads during March, Amy says. But outside the area, “I see people looking at us,” Amy says. “I see in their eyes they are assuming one of our children has cancer. It breaks my heart to think that could be true.”
One year, the Connors raised $6,000 by shaving, Amy says. This year they’ve raised $800 so far. To support their effort, visit stbaldricks.org/teams/blastchildrenscancer2018.