Students buzz hair to fundraise for UPMC

By Gwenn Barney

Noah Gorelick sits in the chair with a nervous smile on his face. The hairdresser standing… Noah Gorelick sits in the chair with a nervous smile on his face. The hairdresser standing behind him prepares to shear off the remainder of his formerly shoulder-length hair, the majority of which is now sprinkled on the blue tarmac below him. Senior Amanda Russell begins a chant.

“Buzz, buzz, buzz!” she cheers. Senior Grace Duffy, standing nearby and taking pictures of the scene, joins the chant.

Gorelick’s smile eases into a laugh and the hairdresser finishes the job.

Gorelick, a professor at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, runs his hand over his buzzed head, feeling for the scar on the left side, by his ear. This is his first haircut since the surgery two and a half years ago that removed a benign brain tumor.

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“It signifies that I’ve grown past having to hide the scar,” Gorelick said. “It’s nice to be on the other side and help out people who still need some help.”

Gorelick was one of more than 150 people who participated in the Buzzing 4 Change event that took place on the William Pitt Union lawn yesterday afternoon. The event offered free haircuts and food, but with a suggested donation of $3 to $5 to raise money for UPMC Children’s Hospital.

Participants who cut off 10 inches of hair or more were also encouraged to donate their hair to the Locks of Love charity, which manufactures wigs for children living with cancer and other diseases.

Gorelick’s cheerleader Russell also happens to be the founder of Pitt’s Buzzing 4 Change program.

Pitt is one of only four universities in the country to host the annual event. Russell brought the hair-shearing fundraiser to campus last year after learning about the group from her friend Judah Ferst. Ferst initiated the program on George Washington University’s campus in 2002.

Pitt’s Buzzing 4 Change president, senior Christiana Thurton, was thrilled by the large turnout. “There’s been a nice steady flow of people,” she said. “I feel we might make more money this year than last year.”

Russell estimated the total amount raised to be about $2,500, but didn’t have the final tally yet. The event raised about $2,000 last year.

Some students opted to buzz off all their hair for the event, while others went for a simple trim.

“I have split ends,” senior Sarah Sandrian said when asked her reason for participating. She quickly added, “But it’s also a good cause.”

Senior Lauren Perwas had a more personal reason for donating some of her long black hair. In high school, her friend’s sister died of cancer. Since then, Lauren and her friends from home have periodically donated their hair to Locks of Love.

“This is the fourth time I’ve donated hair,” Perwas said.

Junior Zack Stavriotis used the words of rapper Wiz Khalifa when it came time to deciding the fate his long blond locks.

“Everything I do, I do it big,” Stavriotis said before giving the hairdresser the go-ahead to buzz off his shoulder-length hair.

For Stavriotis, the choice to donate wasn’t as much related to the purpose of the event as it was the weather.

“It’s getting warm out and this hair’s like a hat,” he said. “I was eating lunch and some girls walked by and asked, ‘Do you want to cut your hair today?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And they were kinda like, ‘Woah!’ I figured if it’s going to help someone at Children’s, why not?”

Professional hairdressers from Supercuts donated their time for the event.

“This is our day off, and we chose to come here and do this,” said Carly Craig, a hairdresser at the Murrysville, Pa., Supercuts. “We like to help as much as we can at any type of charity event.”

For the event, senior Brett Schupack also volunteered as a DJ to pump up the crowd.

Pitt’s Buzzing 4 Change program is run by an eight-member board. The group counted on volunteers from a number of student groups, including service fraternity Alphi Phi Omega, honor society Omicron Delta Kappa and the Hillel Jewish University Center.

Though the annual Buzzing 4 Change event is the group’s primary focus, its members also raised money this year through pizza sales, a fundraising event at Pamela’s Diner and online profiles that members use to request donations from friends and family in other cities or states. Before the Buzzing 4 Change event began, the group had already gathered more than $1,400 for Children’s Hospital.

At times, the wait for a haircut reached 30 minutes yesterday afternoon.

“I’m surprised by the number of girls who, on impulse, cut their hair,” Russell said. “It’s awesome.”