MYRTLE BEACH — No one in Chance Caulder’s immediate family has breast cancer.
She isn’t battling cancer and neither are any of her friends.
Still, the 10-year-old Horry County fifth-grader wanted to show her support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the tens of thousands of women across the country who face down the disease every year.
Chance’s statement was simple, yet powerful: She shaved her head.
“She just never ceases to amaze me. She’s a very big-hearted child for her age,” said mom Diane Caulder.
Why now? October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and people around the country honor those who have both survived and succumbed to the disease. Pink is the color of choice. The Centers for Disease Control report approximately 210,203 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, the most recent year numbers were available. That same year, 40,589 women died as a result of the disease.
Chance’s original plan was to cut her hair and donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that uses donated hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Diane Caulder said her daughter has heard stories about others who have donated, and seen advertisements on television, and the two once talked about it when Diane Caulder considered participating. It turned out, her hair didn’t meet the 10-inch minimum length requirement.
Like her mother, Chance’s hair wasn’t long enough to donate either. But that didn’t stop the Green Sea-Floyds fifth-grader from moving forward.
Her inspiration came from what might be considered an unlikely source – country music star and former “American Idol” contestant Kellie Pickler, who recently shaved her head to support a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chance said she wanted to follow her singing idol’s footsteps.
“At that point, I didn’t care how much was gone of my hair,” Chance said.
While Chance’s gesture wasn’t made for anyone in particular, such support is critical for those battling breast cancer.
Pickler herself talked about the importance of being a “cancer buddy” during interviews after shaving her head, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation website,
This week, Chance debuted her new “do” at school.
Diane Caulder was initially apprehensive about what her daughter’s classmates would think of her new haircut.
She and her daughter met with Green Sea-Floyds Principal Melissa Gause to explain the meaning behind Chance’s extreme look. They were able to turn it into a teaching lesson, and the fifth-grader talked to her fellow students about the symbolism behind her bald head.
“The kids are very supportive of her, and they were proud,” Gause said.
As it turns out, her fellow students weren’t the only ones who got her message.
In their free time, the Caulder family enjoys taking their ATVs to Pleasant View, off Highway 917 near Aynor, to go mud bogging with friends.
One of those friends is Richie Smith, who has known the family for 10 years.
Smith said they were at the racing area Oct. 6, when Chance told him her idea.
Smith recalled that Chance said she was scared her fellow students would pick on her. That’s when he made her a deal; if she shaved her head, he’d shave his too.
The next night, Smith said he and his wife got photos of Chance’s bald dome via email. On Monday, Smith’s wife trimmed off all his hair.
“It was cold,” Smith said of his inaugural close shave.
A fellow ATV rider, Casey Warren, also followed Chance’s lead and sheared his head.
Then, on Tuesday, Chance did what few children get to do – she cut off all her dad’s hair.
Russell Caulder said that once his daughter and two fellow mud boggers went with the shiny-headed look, it was time for him to step up as well.
For someone who’s always had long hair, Russell Caulder said it’s definitely taken some getting used to.
“(It’s) very cold and very strange,” he said.
Still, for the cause Chance was supporting, her friends and family were happy to stand with her.
Diane Caulder said 15 friends and family on her daughter’s Facebook page indicated they’d be cutting their hair as well. So far, eight have followed through.
As for Chance’s new look, it got positive reviews from friends and family.
“They said I looked cool and cute,” she said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.