Each month, the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium highlights the stories and contributions of patient families, clinicians and researchers in “Collaborative Corner” to find cures for pediatric brain tumors. If you would like to share your story as a guest blogger, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Patti Gustafson, Michael’s Mom and Chief Operating Officer, Swifty Foundation
Caitlin Holzer was part of a duo who recently shaved their heads and raised over $8,000 for the Swifty Foundation. Not only is her fiscal impact impressive, so is Caitlin herself. Her activism in the causes she cares about accurately exemplifies her remarkable character, and her passion for giving back depicts the inspiration that she is.
We caught up with Caitlin a couple of days after she shaved her head to gather her perspective. Please take the time to gain insight on her personal aspirations, the event and the Swifty Foundation. We are more than blessed to have Caitlin on board as a Swifty team member and to have her aiding in the search for a cure.
Some info about me: I was born and raised in Naperville and am now a sophomore student at Montana State University studying Psychology. I went to Kennedy with both Bridget and Michael, but I didn’t really get to know them until 8th grade when I became close with Bridget. Our friendship carried on, and we would spend a lot of time hanging out all together, playing all sorts of games. I want to help people for the rest of my life.
Mostly, I want to help those suffering in poverty, people with mental illness, and people impacted by the prison systems in America.
As for the event: We are always able to give more than we think we can, so I tried to be creative in how I chose to give. Kira had told me she was shaving her head, too, on January 6th for the 5th anniversary of Michael passing away, and offered to do it together. Five years is symbolic, so we wanted to go big and aim for $5,000 each (Kira split hers half and half for Swifty and Jagathon). I wasn’t really nervous to shave my head because I knew I wouldn’t regret it, but I was nervous that we wouldn’t reach our goal.
The whole event was cool because it was an intimate gathering with some of the most important people in my life, so to be surrounded by so much love and positivity made the big shave something not to fear.
The next day and beyond: When Kira and I first looked in the mirror, it was such a strange feeling to look so different all of a sudden. When I look in the mirror today, after being a little freaked out, I am constantly brought back to the excitement of Saturday, knowing that Mikey’s master plan is alive and well. A rush of inspiration fills me and reminds me to keep giving back to the world in any way possible.
What I want others to take away: AWARENESS
Pediatric brain cancer research is still grossly underfunded, and we still have so much more work to do before finding a cure. No matter how big your pockets are, there are many forms of contributing to causes you care about.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that being bald was MY choice. People who are undergoing treatments that cause hair loss don’t have the luxury to choose. It is much more important to recognize the struggle of losing hair unwillingly, on top of the horrible hundreds of side-effects that come along with cancer than to give me a pat on the back for shaving my head. My heart is with anyone who is fighting cancer and disease.