Wayne and Pat Chapman, both Lamar County natives, are in their 13th year of baldly fundraising for childhood cancer research, but this is the first year it’s been held in Paris.
“There are several children right here in Paris who are fighting cancer, and we are doing this to support research to fund cures for them and the 300,000 other kids who will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone,” Pat said.
Since 2009, Wayne has shaved his head to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a national charity dedicated to cancer research in children. So far, he has raised $65,000 on just his own head and contributed to raising $390,000 in what has become an annual McAllen fundraiser.
They do it in honor of their son, David, who died in 2006 from lung cancer, and in honor of all the local children in Paris they know who have had childhood cancer. For the past several years, the snowbirds have moved down to South Texas when the weather turned cold. Their daughter, Becky Chapman Weaver, helped them get the fundraiser started in McAllen.
“He died of cancer, not as a child, but as a new dad,” Weaver said. “While he was in remission (before he relapsed), David shaved his own head to raise money for research for kids. My whole family has embraced this cause (including my sister and her family in Virginia).”
The idea for St. Baldricks started in 1999 when three men in New York City got together and decided to see how much people would pay them to shave their heads on St. Patrick’s Day, with the proceeds going to childhood cancer research.
“One of them had a niece who died of cancer,” Pat said. “It spread. They had a whole lot of money and called Becky and asked her to help.”
At the time, Weaver worked with another charity and helped the St. Baldricks crew pro bono until they professionally organized, and then she became their second employee.
“Who would think an 88-year-old man and his wife would be able to do all this — and just keep right on,” Weaver said. “That’s my parents. I love them so much.
“Part of my job is to oversee the process of making grants for research across the country, working with scientific advisers, so I have a front row seat to see how well the money we raise is invested to find cures. It’s been very exciting and rewarding to be a part of it all since St. Baldrick’s began, and to have my family members shave and raise money and awareness makes it even more meaningful.”
Since 2005, St. Baldricks has given out $23 million for research in Texas alone. It is one of the largest cancer research charities in the U.S.
The Chapmans have made the decision to stay permanently in Paris now, so they hope to establish a fundraiser here like they didn in McAllen.
“Now that we are back full-time in Paris, our life-long home, it’s a tradition we will continue,” Pat said. “Since there’s been no St. Baldrick’s event in Paris before, we’d like to get the word out, in hopes that people will support the effort this year, and maybe even join us for an event next year.”
The head shaving was virtual last year, because of Covid-19, and this year, because they haven’t been able to establish an event yet, Wayne got his head shaved Saturday by a local barber. But, the couple said people can still donate to his page or St. Baldricks.