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Bald and beautiful


WLHS senior shaves her head, raises $1,300 for childhood cancer research

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Renee Layoun, a senior at West Linn, is spreading awareness about childhood cancer.A couple of weeks ago, Renee Layoun had long, dark, curly hair. Now, the West Linn High School senior has none.

On Sept. 14, she exchanged her locks for more than $1,300 in donations for childhood cancer research, through St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and donated more than 16 inches of hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a nonprofit organization that makes wigs for cancer patients.

A senior at West Linn High School, Layoun first heard of St. Baldrick’s about four years ago. Intrigued, she kept thinking about the organization but, she said, lacked the courage to commit to shaving her head.

“My grandfather passed away in July from leukemia,” she said. “I thought, ‘Now is the time to shave my head.’ It just seemed like perfect timing.”

St. Baldrick’s gives each volunteer, or “shavee,” a private fundraising page. Layoun sent out a link to her page and posted it on Facebook. She received about 25 pledges, including a $500 donation from Teeny Foods Corp., a Portland-based company that employs her father.

Besides fundraising for research, St. Baldrick’s is dedicated to raising awareness. Layoun fully embraces that mission.

“I can tell people are staring and curious as to why I’m bald. A lot of people have asked me and I tell them why,” she said. “I don’t mind the stares. I’m happy to answer. I tell people that I shaved my head ... to help children with cancer.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Renee Layoun holds a sign explaining why she was willing to shave off her long curls.On her first day back at high school without hair, Layoun found most people supportive — and curious.

“All my friends were really excited,” she said. “Everyone wanted to touch my hair and feel it all day long. So many people came up to me and told me how proud they were of me for being willing to donate my hair.”

People wanting to touch Layoun’s hair is nothing new, according to her mother, Toni Layoun.

“When she was a kid and I’d take her out in the stroller, people would all the time touch her hair,” she said. “So her hair has always been a strong part of her.”

Toni Layoun said her daughter has donated her hair twice before, and that shaving her head is in keeping with her strong character.

“She just feels comfortable enough with herself and her friends that she thought, ‘OK, I can do this,’” Toni Layoun said.

Layoun’s list of academic activities paint a picture of a busy, committed teenager. She owns and manages West Linn Tutors and serves as captain of the high school’s mock trial team, the vice president of National Honor Society, president of mathletes and the president and founder of Mu Alpha Theta, a math honor society.

She also plays cello in the school orchestra and is active in her church and Young Life.

She enjoys math classes, including calculus BC and AP statistics this year and hopes to study mechanical engineering in college.

Toni Layoun has a simple hope for the day her daughter enters college next fall: hair.

“You figure if it grows an inch, maybe an inch and a half a month, maybe a year from now it will be a nice length,” she said.

In the meantime, Layoun isn’t worried about her appearance.

“I knew it was such a good cause, to help children with cancer,” she said. “I could take the comments and stares from people.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Despite her bald head, WLHS senior Renee Layoun exudes confidence.She has found some unexpected benefits to having a shorn head too. She has been heard gloating about the fact that she can sleep in a bit later each morning, since her new hairstyle gets her out the door with minimum fuss.

“She keeps telling us (how much) she’s saving us on water and shampoo,” her mother said.

Founded by three New York-based friends in 1999, St. Baldrick’s has raised more than $100 million in childhood cancer research grants since 2005.

Learn more online at stbaldricks.org.