Women raise money and shave heads after 4-year-old loses sight to cancer

Annual event kicks off on Friday

INDIANAPOLIS - Craig and Katie Vescelus, of Noblesville, feel blessed every day. They have two healthy little boys: Magnus, 6, and Matthias, 4.

However, life in their home didn’t always feel so normal.

When Matthias was two-months-old, he came down with a bad cold. During a subsequent appointment, the doctors noticed his eyes tracking back and forth. After a trip to a specialist, the Vescelus family got a diagnosis it never imagined: Bilateral Retinoblastoma.

Matthias’ eyes had tumors growing inside of them. Six months of chemotherapy wasn’t enough. The next non-surgical step was a specific type of radiation, but it wasn’t guaranteed to work.

“Our other option was surgical removal of the eyes,” explained Katie Vescelus.

The decision was obvious for Katie and Craig. Their top priority was to help Matthias be healthy. Even though the surgery cost him his eyes and sight, they knew this option would keep him alive, healthy and with their family.

Now, Matthias depends on his parents, brother and teachers to describe what they see. That’s how he learns about his surroundings.

Craig told RTV6's Beth Vaughn how Matthias first learned about trees.  “Put your arms around it and feel how wide it is. Feel the bark. What does it smell like? All the things that you take for granted… that helps describe things,” Craig said.

Taking Action

The entire experience, from the diagnosis to the surgery, was literally an eye-opener for their entire family.

“We knew kids got cancer, but we didn't know how bad it was,” Katie said.

So, they chose to make a difference.

“To shave my head to try to give kids a brighter future? Of course, absolutely,” Katie said with a smile.

Last year, she agreed to shave her head to raise money for children’s cancer research. It’s all part of the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraising effort.

“It's now about 80-percent survival rate for most children's cancers. It still needs to be higher,” said local St. Baldrick’s board member Chuck Chamness.

Chamness began shaving his head for the cause in 2005. His son was diagnosed with bone cancer at just 8-years-old.

Now, Chamness’ family shaves together for the children who will be diagnosed with cancer in the future.

A Bunch of Bald Chicks

Katie and her boys shaved their heads last year.  This Friday, they’ll do the same.

“We're going to shave our heads,” said Matthias. “What for?” his dad asked. “People for cancer,” he replied.

The three veteran “shavees” from the Vescelus family will be accompanied by seven other women, some whom are loosely tied to the family, others who have seen Matthias’ fight firsthand. They call themselves a “Bunch of Bald Chicks”.

“Fully bald, I actually thought was pretty cool looking. But, as it grew back, you hit these funky stages, but I still never felt unattractive,” Katie said, reflecting on last year. “I always felt like, what I had done was beautiful and my sense of self beauty was no longer connected with my hair or my make-up,” she continued.

The women of “Bunch of Bald Chicks” are part of a larger group of about 100 people shaving their heads Friday evening at the Northside Knights of Columbus.

Together, this group will raise an estimated $120,000 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Every penny raised goes toward children’s cancer research. Last year, the foundation was able to contribute $33 million to the cause.

You can participate,too. Be prepared to donate, support or even shave your head! Friday’s even kicks off at 6 p.m.

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