Mount Carmel High School, 6410 S. Dante Ave., has a long history of participating in the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving fundraisers each March, but had to cancel last year’s in-person celebration because of the pandemic. On March 17, however, the school was back at it with a smaller-than-usual, socially distanced event. The head shaving always takes place during the school’s spirit week, which is filled with activities. But the pandemic forced the school to not include the whole student body at the event. Instead, the 17 young men having their heads shaved were the only students present. St. Baldrick’s Foundation raises money for childhood cancer research and several Catholic schools and parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago annually hold events during which volunteers have their heads shaved to raise money. “I think it’s a little more subdued, but I think it’s still cool that there are still some of these events that people really have a passion for,” said principal Scott Tabernacki, who is an alumnus of Mount Carmel. “The fact that they still want to join something. I think it’s huge to bring us all together.” Mount Carmel has been doing in-person learning five days a week since the school year began, although about 150 students participate virtually. “It’s been working out,” Tabernacki said. “I think, day by day, we proved ourselves that as long as we stay safe and follow the protocols, we could do it. And here we are.” Last spring, Mount Carmel administrators heard from both students and faculty that they were missing the connection to one another. That propelled the administrators to do everything they could to provide a safe in-person experience. “That sign of solidarity of us walking through this challenging time together has been huge,” he said. Tabernacki praised the efforts of campus minister John Stimler for putting the St. Baldrick’s event together despite the challenges. Students who participate have their own reasons for taking part in the event, whether it be family members or friends with cancer, and so does Stimler. He has been to funerals for students who have died from cancer, and that keeps him organizing the event each year. “There’s still way too many kids who suffer from this,” he said. “This is one small way that we can do something to help.” In the past, the school has had up to 100 students participating in the head shaving, which took place during a large assembly. Stimler said the event increases students’ empathy for what children and adults go through when they are diagnosed with cancer and the shock a family can feel. “I know, oftentimes, it’s a struggle for them to part with their hair, but it’s a small sacrifice for what kids and families go through,” he said. “We try to make the connection that their hair is going to grow back but not every kid is going to make it through fighting cancer.” This year’s highest fundraiser at Mount Carmel was freshman Kevin Zanin, who raised $3,000. “I thought it was a great idea because cancer is terrible,” Zanin said. “All those kids who unfortunately get this disease, I want to be there to support them, to show them it’s not always bad to have no hair on their heads.” Zanin participated once before as a student at St. Gabriel School, when his basketball team shaved their heads in solidarity with a fellow student who had cancer. Other students shared their motivations for participating. “My mom and aunt had breast cancer, so it feels good to do this,” said sophomore Joseph Gilbert. “They had to get their heads shaved for breast cancer, so I did it for them.” Sophomore Paolo De La Torre also had a close family member with cancer. “My uncle died of cancer. It was really bad actually,” De La Torre said. He participated this year in honor of his uncle and what he endured during his illness. “I was like, ‘Why not?’ It’s really not that bad. Your hair grows back fast,” he said.