Megan Dermody, 36, of Gorham recently journeyed to Boston for an extreme makeover of sorts.

Dermody typically entrusts the cutting of her thick, blonde hair to Portland stylist Jill Ricker. But on July 27, she left that honor in the hands of a complete stranger in hopes of gaining a new look that was sure to turn heads and elicit positive feedback.

Mission accomplished.

Dermody returned home last Monday – completely bald.

Dermody isn’t crazy. She’s just head-over-heels in love with her son Finnian Dermody, 8, a cancer survivor.

Megan was one of the 46 mothers who participated in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s “46 Mommas: Shave for the Brave” event in Boston.

Since its premiere in 2010, the foundation’s volunteer-driven event has raised more than $1.4 million for pediatric cancer research one shaven head at a time.

The number 46 represents the average number of families who each day receive the news that their child has cancer.

This year, moms from 22 states and Canada gathered in Boston for the four-day affair, which featured group activities ranging from attending a Red Sox game to sharing a meal or getting a commemorative tattoo.


Among them was April Hawkes, 32, of Lisbon, who was the first Maine woman to sign up to participate in the fundraiser’s five-year history.

“I was pretty nervous but excited,” said Hawkes, who was in Boston representing son Spencer Hawkes, age 4. “Many of us Mommas had been interacting through social media for months and were eager to meet in person. Now, it feels like I have a whole new family.”

Dermody echoed the sentiment: “The event was empowering. It was nice to share this with people who can relate to what you’re going through. It was also a great opportunity to get encouragement from others who have been there before or to offer support to someone who may be new (to a cancer diagnosis).

The women gathered donation pledges to shave their heads as part of the fundraiser, but they also hope to show their children that they understand what it’s like to experience hair loss, which is a common side effect of chemotherapy.

A large crowd gathered as the moms waited their turn to be shaved in one of the many barber chairs that were lined up at the base of the busy Prudential Center.

Many of the participants held the hand of the woman seated next to them and others clutched handmade posters featuring images of the child they came to represent – some in remission, some newly diagnosed and some who exist only in memory.

As the hairdressers’ electric trimmers buzzed across their scalps, some moms shouted and pumped their fists in a victory pose while others sat quietly, tears streaming down their faces, as the severed locks of hair cascaded to the ground at their feet.


“We are like walking billboards,” said a newly shorn Dermody, who faced the shears with her children (Finn, 8, and daughter Shayla, age 4) on her lap.

Megan had been growing her thick blonde mane out to donate to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths project, which creates free wigs for cancer patients.

The Dermodys’ journey with childhood cancer began in 2011 when Finn was diagnosed with brain cancer that had metastasized to his spine.

He was 5 and had just begun kindergarten when his world was suddenly turned upside down.

Finn underwent surgery, followed by several rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and about 25 proton radiation treatments. He was unable to speak for almost three months, unable to walk for more than a year and continues to have speech and balance issues and partial paralysis on the right side of his face.

“He had to start all over again, learning how to walk and speak,” said Dermody, of Finn, who returned to kindergarten in a wheelchair but is now in second grade and walking on his own.

“He knew that he was sick but had no concept of the gravity of his cancer diagnosis,” she said. “If there is a silver lining to this horrible experience, it is that he kept that amazing childlike spirit through the whole thing. He just wanted to be a kid. Though, sometimes he’ll ask me questions like ‘Mom, why do I have a crooked smile?'”

April’s son Spencer, diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, also is in remission. He is more than halfway through a 3 1/2-year course of treatment that involves a constant regimen of steroids and spinal punctures to detect the presence of any recurrences.

April joined the “Shave for the Brave” campaign as much to raise awareness about pediatric cancer as to raise donations to fund a cure.

“People think childhood cancer is never going to happen to their family,” said April. “I thought that too. But I was wrong. Childhood cancer is not rare. It’s here and we need to fix it.”

Both Mommas hope the shave events will draw attention to their cause in the same way the “Go Pink” campaign has raised awareness and support for breast cancer research.


According to the St. Baldrick’s website, 175,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with cancer each year. In the United States alone, more children die of childhood cancer than any other disease, including AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital anomalies and diabetes combined. And, less than 4 percent of funds raised for cancer research goes to pediatric cancer.

Back in Maine, the Mommas will continue to participate in fundraising efforts for the cause. Hawkes intends to maintain her baldness via weekly encounters with a Bic razor, at least through September, and Dermody is considering her options. Helping to promote a dialogue with others, each of them now wears a large pin that reads: “Ask Me Why I Am Bald.”

“It’s an empowering thing to fight for your cause and to stand up in solidarity to make a statement for our children as well as for those who will be diagnosed in the future,” said Dermody.

The Mommas have until December to raise additional funds.

For more details or to donate, go to

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