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Eldersburg resident cutting it close before leaving for Africa

Weeks before she is set to go to Africa with the Peace Corps, Paige Walters, 22, of Eldersburg, decided to cut her long, curly brown hair.

Yet a simple haircut wasn't enough.

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She's going for a buzz cut and has turned her hair appointment into a fundraiser for the Monrovia, Calif.-based St. Baldrick's Foundation, which supports research to find cures for childhood cancers.

The Shave-a-thon will be held Saturday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. to noon, at Hair by Samsara, 7606 Main Street in Sykesville.

Besides the buzz cuts, hair stylists will be offering hair streaks for $1 and donating a portion of the proceeds of their color streak product sales to St. Baldrick's.

There will be a sale on other products, a raffle and the opportunity to make a donation with or without a haircut.

"I decided I didn't need my hair to go," said Walters, a Liberty High School graduate, who recently received her degree in health care management from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.,

Walters will travel to the Republic of Gambia on Oct. 15 to serve as a health educator for 27 months. She decided her hair, which hangs all the way down her back, would be too much trouble in the hot and buggy countryside, but she didn't want to just get her hair cut, nor did she did want to waste the opportunity or the hair.

Like family members who shave their heads to support relatives losing their hair due to cancer treatments, Walters decided she wanted to be supportive of children with cancer, and it opened up a number of conversations about how cancer has affected families.

"That's the conversation starter," she said.

Walters recently learned about the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which sponsors head-shaving events around the country.

Like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral this summer, these events began with one challenge in 2000, according to Traci Shirk, a St. Baldrick's representative. Some 1,400 head-shaving events were held around the world last year.

"This year alone, we've raised $35 million just through these fundraisers," Shirk said. "It's about shaving your head in solidarity with the kids in treatment."

"This is what St. Baldrick's does," said Walters, whose long hair will be donated to Wigs for Kids for use by children with cancer.

Walters isn't expecting a crowd of people to line up for buzz cuts. Instead, she's raising funds for the foundation.

She set a $500 goal when she organized the fundraiser and nearly reached her goal that first day. She's upped the ante to $1,000.

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The fundraising event will end with her own hair appointment. Melissa Field, a co-owner of the salon, is the only stylist who has ever cut Walters' hair.

"Now that I'm in over my head, there's no turning back," Walters said.

Donations may also be made online on Walters' page on St. Baldrick's website at stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/734829/2014.

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