Editorial: Finding purpose through special efforts at charity

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 1/4/2018 11:06 AM
  • Kira Couch and Caitlin Holzer, both Naperville North High School grads, plan to shave their heads Saturday to raise money for childhood cancer research.

    Kira Couch and Caitlin Holzer, both Naperville North High School grads, plan to shave their heads Saturday to raise money for childhood cancer research. Courtesy of Caitlin Holzer

It's always struck us as odd the lengths to which people go in order to raise money for their favorite causes.

We walk, run, cycle, climb stairs, kiss perfect strangers, decorate our motorcycles and ride in the winter, get dunked in water tanks and shave our heads.

On the surface, it seems a shame people have to endure humiliation, physical torture and undeserved baldness so that research can continue into fighting disease, homelessness and other societal ills.

We look back to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from a few years ago, whose initial goal was to teach people a little about the pain that those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis feel, but of course also to raise money to fund research toward a cure.

It is pretty clear that for a great many people who participated, it was all about the spectacle of dumping ice water on one's head -- and less so about what that tortuous act signified or even the donation of money toward the cause.

Why can't people simply be moved to contribute to a friend's particular cause -- or have one of their own?

A young graduate of Naperville North High School reminds us why.

Our Marie Wilson wrote for Monday's editions about Kira Couch of Lisle, who plans to shave her head (along with 19-year-old Caitlin Holzer, a fellow North alum) Saturday to raise money for the Swifty Foundation, a pediatric cancer research nonprofit organization.

She first did so in 2014 as a high school junior to honor the memory of classmate Mikey Gustafson who died the year before of a brain tumor. Her haircut raised money to support the charity Mikey's family started to fight childhood cancer.

Back then, she had her head shaved along with her friend Bridget, Mikey's twin sister. Her hair grew back, but the big shave served as a reminder of why she had it cut off in the first place.

She told Wilson that every time she'd flip her phantom hair, "It was just a constant reminder of Michael's presence in my life. It was a constant reminder of what my passion is, which is helping kids with cancer."

Couch is a sophomore in college now studying biology with a goal of being a pediatric oncologist.

Not everyone who bikes 50 miles for Multiple Sclerosis research or walks five miles to raise money for the search for a cure for Alzheimer's is going to become a doctor. And that's just fine.

What we do know is that many times we feel powerless in the face of disease. We feel hopeless. We feel alone.

Those who participate in these fundraising activities feel a great sense of purpose just by participating and feel a great sense of community by walking the walk with those who are in the same boat.

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