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The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

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March 17, 2022

A change for a cause close to the heart

Honoring the loss of a loved one, senior Varun Saravanan and his father shave their heads for annual cancer fundraiser

People can express their identity in many ways. One of which is their hairstyle, but when it comes to their hair, most people can’t envision shaving it all off.

However, for senior Varun Saravanan, shaving his head with his dad, Saravanan Pillai, is an annual affair. But he doesn’t do it for change. He does it for a cause, one close to his heart.

We want to focus more towards kids. That’s what our hope is; to get betterment in their life,

— Saravanan Pillai

Every year, he and his father hold a fundraiser to support different cancer organizations.

“When I shaved my hair, it kind of shows my support for other patients because we’re focusing on kids cancer research,” Saravanan said. “On our fundraiser page, we’re allowed to put a picture of ourselves after we shave our heads, and that kind of goes out to some of the patients. And usually for kids, they might get mocked sometimes, or they feel uncomfortable because they don’t have a choice in their hair because they kind of have hair loss because of chemotherapy.”

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The money raised goes directly to the St. Baldrick’s organization, which funds developments in technology, treatment, and university lab research.

“This is probably our fifth year,” Pillai said. “St. Baldrick’s is one of the Cancer Foundation which focuses primarily on kids cancer research. So we want to focus more towards kids. That’s what our hope is to get betterment in their life.”

But the family has a much deeper connection to their fundraiser than visible at first sight: a connection that started years into their past.

It was March 23rd, 2014, and instead of just sitting around and mourning her death, we thought it would be best to make something better out of it,

— senior Varun Saravanan

“Usually people only start to make change when something happens to them,” Saravanan said. “And for me, when I was eight, my mom passed away from stage four stomach cancer. It was March 23rd, 2014, and instead of just sitting around and mourning her death, we thought it would be best to make something better out of it. We know that she wouldn’t want us to be there sad, so we tried to honor her in some way.”

While funding is important to support developing cancer research, the family is also trying to send a message with their story.

“Our children are our hope,” Pillai said. “So currently, the sad thing is a lot of mortality on children are primarily due to cancer. So we want to focus more on that, bring more awareness and bring more funding towards research so that we can prevent most of them before it happens.”

Their actions reflect their story of the pain they have experienced in the hope that others don’t have to go through it either.

“It shows what my mother had to go through for years,” Saravanan said. “It showed the small things in the process that my dad had to go through and how he still mourns that today. It shows how my sister deals with her emotions today, and it shows how I still have conflicting thoughts about my role in all of this.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on March 23, 2023.