Parents

At 46 Mommas events, moms of kids with cancer shave heads to fight the disease

As the clippers did their work, and as Timaree Marston watched her shorn hair cascade around her last weekend, she couldn't help but think of the little boy she lost to cancer.

She also knew she wasn't alone, as many of the mothers at the 46 Mommas Lucky 7 Shave event in Las Vegas had endured similar heartbreak.

"I cried quite a bit, but I laughed, too,'' Marston told TODAY. "These women are so supportive that it's a sorority like no other."

The event at McMullan's Irish Pub on July 24 featured 24 mothers from everywhere from Hawaii to Rhode Island getting their heads shaved to raise awareness about childhood cancer.

Several spouses and young cancer survivors also had their hair buzzed off for the cause.

"Our goal is to give moms this special moment of empowerment and just this release of all of this stress and turmoil that their family is in,'' event organizer Courtney Moore told TODAY.

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They also were there to celebrate the fact that the charity they are tied to, The St. Baldrick's Foundation, was closing in on $2 million raised for pediatric cancer research over the last seven years just through the 46 Mommas events alone. The St. Baldrick's Foundation has raised more than $200 million for childhood cancer research overall.

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At St. Baldrick's events, moms, dads and kids shave their heads to raise money and awareness to fight childhood cancer.

The 46 Mommas campaign takes its name from a grim stat: Every day, 46 mothers in North America are told that their child has cancer.

At the Las Vegas event, there were mothers of cancer survivors as well as moms like Marston, whose 3-year-old son, Caemon, died in 2013 from a rare form of leukemia.

Marston, from Santa Rosa, California, now has a 1-year-old daughter, Sorrel.

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They call us the crazy head-shaving people, because we're crazy enough to think that this head-shaving thing can find cures for kids with cancer.

Chelsea Gatlin, 29, a mother of four from Loveland, Colorado, got her head shaved along with her daughter, Taylor, 11, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 8. She has since recovered.

"I knew it would be difficult to see Taylor with a bald head again, but I didn't understand the memories that would come flooding back,'' Gatlin told TODAY. "She was just glowing, and the power it felt like she had taken back was just amazing, but it was also a trigger for sure."

Moore has helped organize the last five events, and she has seen how being in the presence of other women who can empathize has a powerful effect on first-time attendees.

Her daughter, Georgia, 16, is a cancer survivor who was first diagnosed when she was 10 and is four years out of treatment.

"I may not even know Suzie Q from Montana well but when she says, 'We have scans tomorrow,' I know what that means,'' Moore told TODAY. "We always joke that it's a really crappy way to make friends, but we have found these sisters who know what we've gone through."

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One group known as the 46 Mommas are the mothers of children with cancer.

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The women also hope that by shaving their heads, they can spark interest when they go back to their hometowns.

"We want to have a conversation,'' Marston said. "Pediatric cancer does not receive nearly the funding it needs."

The St. Baldrick's Foundation
Colorado mom Chelsea Gatlin, 29, and her daughter, Taylor, 11, a cancer survivor, got their heads shaved together.

Gatlin added, "I'm bald and I want to tell you why, because I think people usually assume you are the one that has cancer, and they don't imagine it's for kids who have cancer."

The 46 Mommas events have been held in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Antonio, Kansas City and Las Vegas over the years. Many of the moms have attended multiple times.

"This was my first year, but I definitely will go back,'' Marston said. "Just to be among these women and then come home with that shaved head as an ambassador for the cause, it's been incredibly emotional."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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