OAKLAND, CA — It was a packed room at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland research institute, as men and women sat — some nervous, some excited — as all their hair was shaved off their heads.
This was all part of the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation Fundraiser to combat childhood cancer.
And for Bryan Olivia, this haircut and fundraiser was his way of continuing to serve his patients.
Olivia is a registered nurse for the emergency department at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland.
“I guess before working as a nurse I didn’t know kids got cancer. It sounds kind of ignorant or naive of me but I started working as a nurse, started taking care of kids with cancer and it’s frankly heartbreaking,” said nurse Bryan Olivia. “I got involved because this is a good way to do my part in addition to taking care of the kids.”
This was the second time Olivia participated in the event — but this time he was able to convince his co-worker, Registered Nurse Betsy Segarra, to join.
“I’ve worked in oncology for many years, for 8 years, and I’ve seen my heart filled and my heart broken. And those kids, those kids are special,” said Segarra. “This was a minor sacrifice for what we’re going to do to help our kids.”
Olivia’s long time friend Ben Padua said he got involved because the cause hits close to home.
In 2016, Padua’s 18-month-old niece was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“Just thinking about what my cousin had to go through, what her daughter was going through kind of put things in perspective for me as a new father raising a son and my wife how we would be in that kind of situation,” said Padua.
In under a month of fundraising — Olivia, Segarra, and Padua — were able to raise $9,225.
They say getting the hair shaved off as a fundraiser was the least they can do to ensure that children of today and tomorrow will be able to fight and defeat this terrible disease.
“It’s just a really good thing because truthfully pediatric cancer is extremely underfunded and every dollar counts. The fight against cancer is an ongoing one. We can beat it.”
According to St. Baldricks website, since 2005, the foundation has received more than $234 million in research grant funding.