Childhood cancer survivor shaves head for St. Baldrick's

By Danny Politoski | April 26, 2018 9:50pm

Ruthie Olson after shaving her head.
by Jeffrey Braccia / The Beacon

For some, a shaved head is simply a style choice, but for Ruthie Olson, the action of shaving her head means much more.

On Friday, April 13, students from multiple University of Portland athletic teams as well as many other students participated in shaving off their hair in support of children with cancer, raising money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which researches childhood cancers.

Olson, a sophomore, raised over $1,600 through a Facebook post and by circulating an email among University of Portland professors. Olson said this cause is very important to her due to her own experiences with childhood cancer. 

“I’m doing this because I was diagnosed with cancer when I was around two, and I think it’s really important for other kids who are going through similar things that I went through,” Olson said. 

Olson battled histiocytosis, a type of cancer that causes bone lesions, for about six years, and has been cancer-free since she was eight. She emphasized just how much shaving your head can mean to children battling cancer.

Childhood cancer survivor Ruthie Olson shaves her head for childhood cancer awareness for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
by Jeffrey Braccia / The Beacon

“I want people to know that this is a really fun thing to do. Shaving your head can seem like a really big jump into it, but knowing that this means a lot to the kids who are receiving treatment and had to shave their heads to see others do it willingly, that in itself means a lot to kids and can give them a lot of hope,” Olson said.

Olson was able to share a unique perspective into what exactly willingly shaving your head means for children battling cancer.

“For kids watching, or hearing, or seeing pictures of adults or kids even shaving their heads willingly when they, themselves maybe had to shave because of chemo, that’s a very powerful statement of solidarity,” Olson said.

One of Olson’s roommates, Anita Oman, said she was inspired by what Olson is doing in support of St. Baldrick’s.

“Ruthie has always been such a passionate person and it’s always inspired me that anything she does she throws her whole self into and this is definitely not an exception, and I’m so proud of her,” Oman said.

Kara Miller, another roommate of Olson, shared similar sentiments.

“I think she’s really brave and its really inspirational to see how passionate she is about this,” Miller said.

Ruthie Olson before shaving her head.
by Jeffrey Braccia / The Beacon

St. Baldrick’s is the largest non-government funded research center for children’s cancer. Doctors come to St. Baldrick’s with a research plan, and if they believe in the plan, St. Baldrick’s will fund the research. This can be especially important for children with rare diseases that may not have a standardized treatment plan.

If you’re interested in donating to the St. Baldrick's Foundation, you can do so here.

Danny Politoski is a news reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @dpolitoski