Fighting cancer with buzz cuts

By on August 29, 2014
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Photo: Matt Peters gets a buzz cut as part of Cuts for the Cure.
Photos submitted by Julie Allen to

Event raises over $1,000 for childhood cancer research
ELBURN—Three generations of Elburn residents recently got their heads shaved at Cuts for the Cure, an event at Dave’s Barbershop that raised over $1,000 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer research organization.

Joe Schoepke, his son-in-law Matt Peters, and his grandson Maxwell Peters, were just three of the nearly 30 people who came out to get buzz cuts from Dave Rissman, the owner of Dave’s Barbershop, located at 132 N. Main St, Ste. 1. Rissman volunteered to host the event.

“My first reaction was to put a hat on,” Schoepke joked. “If you’d seen how much hair I’d had, you would say (the buzz cut) is really bold. My family said they didn’t even recognize me anymore.”

The event was organized by 10-year-old Nolan Allen, who lost an uncle, Craig Larson of Batavia, to cancer earlier this year. Allen shaved his own head so he could march in the Elburn Days Parade and advertise the event.

“I just know I kicked cancer’s butt hard,” Nolan said. “I did it for my uncle Craig. It’s a really good feeling to see that you raised $1,000 for cancer research. I don’t know if my parents or grandparents could be any prouder.”

Though the Allens were a little disappointed with the turnout—in retrospect, they wish they had planned it for a different day than the Saturday of Elburn Days—they said the experience was a good one.

“It’s hard to get people to come and shave their heads and to come and get haircuts on Elburn Days, but people were really excited that someone Nolan’s age would want to do this kind of charity work,” said Bob Allen, Nolan’s father. “We just came together as a family and tried to help other people, and it was a nice moment for us to take time out of our daily lives and stop thinking of ourselves.”

Rissman has done St. Baldrick’s events in the past, but this was the first one he’d ever hosted in his own shop.

“I was hoping we’d get a line outside the door,” Rissman said. “But I would deem it a success. The bar was set at $1,000, and we reached that.”

For Schoepke, supporting the cause was personal. He’s a cancer survivor—he developed prostate cancer in 2007 and says he’s fortunate to be cured—and said that he got the buzz cut to show solidarity with the Allen family and other families struggling with cancer diagnoses.

“It’s like with the ALS thing, where everybody’s getting ice dumped on them,” Schoepke said. “Anything you can do to raise awareness or help the families or advance the research (into cancer) is important. It’s important to show solidarity.”

Schoepke said he’d known the Allens for a long time and that he was proud of Nolan for taking the initiative to create a fundraiser.

“He’s a very courageous, caring young man with a good heart,” Schoepke said. “To just go out and promote this event as he did, to go through the process and get as many people to get along in the process, for a kid his age, it’s courageous.”

Schoepke got his buzz cut on Wednesday—a few days ahead of the event—and Matt and Maxwell Peters came on Saturday for the event.

“The Allens are family friends of ours, and my father-in-law is a cancer survivor, so that was very persuasive for us, too,” Peters said. “I think it’s a good cause. It was a pretty cool thing for Nolan to put together.”

Though everyone who arrived got buzz cuts, for Nolan, that still wasn’t short enough to show his support for the cause.

“When I saw myself in the mirror, I personally wasn’t really satisfied,” he said. “I thought I was going to be bald-bald, so we almost shaved it with one of those little razor thingies, but mom took the first stroke and said she couldn’t do it. She was afraid she was going to cut my scalp.”

Nolan’s considering repeating the fundraiser next August, though he said he’ll probably schedule it for a weekend other than the weekend of Elburn Days.

The whole event, the Allens say, wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Rissman, who offered to host the event at his barbershop and give buzz cuts to anyone who arrived that day. Two other stylists who work in the same building were also on hand to give out cuts.

“I could not have done it without Dave and his generousness to let me use his barbershop,” Nolan said.

His mother, Julie Allen, agreed.

“Dave Rissman was so generous in saying, ‘Let’s do this and you do it here,’ and he helped me organize it so Nolan could get some extra donations,” she said. “It was very generous and selfless of him.”