Cancer survivor, 9, sheds hair to help find cure

She and 26 others have their heads shaved to help raise funds for research

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoBefore the big shave, Sammy Mederos, right, talks with Hannah Van Every, left, who had her head shaved the day before at a Portland fundraiser for St. Baldrick's Foundation to fight childhood cancer.

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Did you know?

St. Baldrick’s Foundation says it has granted more than $100 million to hundreds of childhood cancer research projects since 2005.

The foundation says only 4 percent of the national cancer budget is dedicated to childhood cancer research.

On the Web:

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

WASHOUGAL — It was Sammy Mederos Day on Sunday as the 9-year-old cancer survivor had her head shaved in a fundraiser to help find cures for the deadly disease.

More than 130 people came out to see Sammy part with the curly locks she has grown for 2.5 years, ever since she completed cancer treatments. Twenty-seven men, women, and children had their heads shaved, and the event raised more than $8,300 for St. Baldrick's Foundation, the largest funder of childhood cancer research grants in the U.S., with the exception of the federal government.

"I want scientists to figure out a better cure, not heavy treatments like I had to do," Sammy said. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her hair was braided at the event and those braids will go to Locks of Love for hairpieces for disadvantaged kids.

"She's a very strong, strong beautiful girl," said her father, Dennis Mederos. He said the family had a three-year struggle with cancer. He also had his head shaved.

The event was a love-in, with stories of lives saved.

Mary LaFrance had her head shaved and received a hug from Sammy. LaFrance is the secretary at Cape Horn Skye Elementary School, where Sammy is a third-grade student. And LaFrance survived breast cancer in 2005 after two surgeries, 18 months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation.

"It's for Sammy," she said of joining the head-shaving event, adding, "and I could not say no." She also said, "It's a choice this time."

Hannah Van Every had her head shaved at a St. Baldrick's event Saturday in Portland. The 12-year-old Liberty Middle School student showed up Sunday and said she did it because, "She (Sammy) inspired me."

Survival rate surges

Joe Farrar said he and son Ramsey, 6, get their heads shaved once a year to raise money for St. Baldrick's. That's because Ramsey was diagnosed with cancer when he was 2 and now is cancer-free. Ramsey was wearing his Superman shirt as his head was shaved.

Farrar said St. Baldrick's raised $33 million for cancer research in 2012 and has raised $33 million already this year. He said research gets results, noting that the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia was about 3 percent in the 1950s and is 90 percent today.

Sammy's mom, Michele, a school counselor, said the Washougal St. Baldrick's Shaving Event will become an annual affair at the Washougal High School Commons. Of her daughter, she said, "She wants to give back to the future … so kids don't have to die."

Jeff Cross and his son, Aidan, 10, were among father-son teams who got a shaving. Cross said in 2010 that his daughter, Kiara, 12, sacrificed her hair to support Sammy.

Flanked by more than a dozen police officers and firefighters, Washougal Mayor Sean Guard proclaimed Sunday "Sammy Mederos Day." He said he found a donor willing to give $500 if he shaved his beard. Sammy served as barber for freeing the mayor of his hair and beard.

Sammy was full of joyful expressions as stylists Shelby Cummings and Holly Thorpe changed her look.

"I feel clean, and no hair," she exclaimed.