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Hofstra University goes bald to raise $36G for St. Baldrick's

Hofstra University junior Loulou Katz, 21, of Manhattan,

Hofstra University junior Loulou Katz, 21, of Manhattan, has her head shaved at the school's 7th annual St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Photo Credit: Tara Conry

While running her hand over her freshly shaved head Wednesday afternoon, Hofstra University junior Loulou Katz was still adjusting to her new look.

“Wow, I miss my hair already,” she said. “It’s just really weird.”

The 21-year-old Manhattanite shed all her locks at the school’s 7th annual fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for pediatric cancer treatments and research. Students, faculty and alumni raised $36,602 this year.

“I’ve been planning on doing St. Baldrick’s a few years now,” she said. “Freshman year I chickened out.”

Katz said she had a “small anxiety attack” before she sat down in the barber’s chair Wednesday, but once she felt the buzzer on her scalp, she told herself “there’s no backing out now.”

Katz’s cousin Toto Reffert, who died in 2004 of leukemia at the age of 12, was her inspiration for going bald, she said. She also raised $160 and donated her hair to Children with Hair Loss, a charity that makes wigs for pediatric cancer patients.

Of the 101 “shavees” who participated in this year’s event, Katz and one other student, Gina Barbara, 35, of Wantagh, were the only women to go completely bald, although other women opted to chop off a good portion of their locks to donate.

The head-shaving station set up in a high-trafficked area of the university’s Student Center drew quite a crowd, but there was one person noticeably absent from this year’s event: Pete Libman.

As Hofstra dean of students, Libman, who died last year, had been an integral part of growing the university’s St. Baldrick’s event, which was started in 2009 by members of the Hofstra Roller Hockey Club.

The inaugural event was small, organizers said, but once Libman got involved the following year he recruited more student groups.

“He brought the whole Hofstra community together,” said Thomas Kostiw, an alum and former member of the Roller Hockey Club who still organizes the event.

Libman died Sept. 27, 2014, of pancreatic cancer, but in his honor, Kostiw introduced Wednesday the Pete Libman Pride Award, which will be given each year to the participant who raises the most money. This year that was Joy Brigis, a medical student who raised $2,580 and donated eight inches of her hair.

The medical school’s students and faculty were responsible for raising $25,476, about 70 percent of the event’s fundraising total. Among their motivations was a challenge issued by Joel Stern, assistant professor of science education and neurology. He promised to have his head shaved if the medical school community raised at least $20,000 -- and he followed through.

The school’s provost, Herman Berliner, had also issued a challenge to the Hofstra community: If they raised $40,000 by 5 p.m. Wednesday, he would shave his head too, but the total came up a tad short.

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