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In pop culture, The Rock, Sinead O'Connor and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard have proven that bald can be beautiful. Saturday — on the cusp of her trip with the Peace Corps to the Republic of Gambia in West Africa — 22-year-old Eldersburg resident Paige Walters joined their esteemed company, shaving her head to support Wigs for Kids and the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

Walters, a recent graduate of Appalachian State University in North Carolina, joined more than 50 friends and family members outside of Hair by Samsara on Main Street in Sykesville for a Shave-A-Thon, in which the business offered $10 shaves to passers-by and $1 color streaks with all of the money supporting the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a nonprofit that works to research and combat childhood cancer. As the group gathered on the sidewalk shaving heads and calling to cars to help out a good cause, Walters prepared herself to lose her nearly elbow-length hair for which she had become known among her friends.

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"I've had this really long, thick hair since probably sixth or seventh grade," Walters said. "I am, in all honesty, ready to get rid of it. Going over to the Gambia, I'm going to have to think of bugs and the heat and hygiene and the culture and my bathing situation, and it all was telling me that I should get rid of it."

Walters decided to donate her hair to the organization Wigs for Kids, a nonprofit that serves children with hair loss. In addition, inspired by members of fraternities from her days at Appalachian State who shaved their heads as a fundraiser, she decided to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation as well.

"I decided it was a good way to kill two birds with one stone," Walters said. "I've donated my hair before, and I was excited to do it again."

At first, Walters planned to try raising $500 for St. Baldricks, but within one day she surpassed her goal. She raised the goal to $1,000 and soon surpassed that as well. By Saturday, she increased her goal to $2,000 and decided to rope in members of the community to help. To host the Shave-A-Thon, Walters approached Melissa Wagner, of Hair by Samsara.

"Melissa is the only person who has ever touched my hair my whole life, so it's really exciting and cool that she's a part of this journey," Walters said. "I used to work here. This place has always been a part of my life."

Wagner kept her electric clippers in hand throughout the morning, shaving Walters' family members' heads in addition to the sporadic passer-by who was interested in the offer. By the end of the day, about 10 people had their heads shaved in support of Walters.

Walters said she has been interested in joining the Peace Corps since she was a teenager.

"It was something I've wanted to do since I graduated high school," Walters said. "We decided it would be best if I went to college first and got my degree so I would be able to apply myself more seriously."

While in school, Walters studied health management, a skill set that she said will come in handy during her 27 months in the Gambia. She leaves Oct. 17.

"I'll be working as a health educator, so it's great that I'm able to tie my major to it," Walters said.

Around noon, after everyone else sported their new cropped tops, Wagner began prepping Walters' hair for the shaving process. Nervous, Walters said she had to drink a glass of wine to calm her nerves before losing the long locks. Cars slowed as the crowd began chanting "Shave it, Paige." After about 20 minutes of cutting off long ponytails and shaving what was left, Walters was left with a closely shaved buzz. In all, Walters said she was glad to go through the process with her closest friends and family surrounding her.

"I'm excited that this was an opportunity to give back," Walters said. "I was lucky to be raised in a community that values service and volunteer work."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

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