For the fourth year in a row, the Virginia Tech baseball team shaved their heads in an effort to raise both money and awareness for childhood cancer research.
On Saturday, the team gathered at English Field after its intrasquad scrimmage for “Shave for the Brave,” the second of its 19 Ways initiative. 19 Ways was a program that former head coach Pete Hughes instituted in the program when he came to Blacksburg.
“I thought it was a perfect tradition to carry on, regardless of who started it,” head coach Pat Mason said. “It was about the causes that we get involved in and keeping the tradition of giving back to the community.”
19 Ways encourages the team to give back to its community and the surrounding area through initiatives such as Micah’s backpack, volunteering at various events and selling bracelets to benefit kids who have cancer.
Shave for the Brave was instituted four years ago when “Friends of Jaclyn” contacted Hughes about helping Levi Brown, a little boy who was diagnosed with cancer. Levi was diagnosed with medulloblastoma — a malignant primary brain tumor — when he was four years old.
“I think it’s a great way to give back to those who are less fortunate,” junior catcher Mark Zagunis said. “I’m doing something I love everyday at a great university. There are just so many other things out there besides a baseball game. So anytime we can help Levi or help anyone less fortunate than us, it’s a blessing.”
Today, Levi is cancer free and has been adopted as a member of the team. Levi gets to join the team in the dugout for games and the team visits him at school a few times per year. For four years the team has been shaving their heads and raising money to support Levi and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“It’s always great raising this much money for someone — especially for such a great cause,” senior pitcher Tanner McIntyre said. “To make that much money and be successful at it both years, it’s always fun and always good for (Levi) too.”
Though 19 Ways was created as a program to benefit the Blacksburg community and surrounding areas, Mason believes that it also helps ground his players.
“I think the basis of our program is to wake up and appreciate everything we have every day, as much as expected,” Mason said. “And that’s kind of how we want to run our program. We want our guys to appreciate everything they have. (With) events like this, you can’t but help to appreciate the good things you have in your own life.”
This year the Hokies surpassed their goal of $25,000, and that number continues to grow everyday. Over the past four years the team has contributed over $65,000 to St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“I think almost everyone can relate or has had someone who has been affected by cancer,” sophomore Ryan Burns said. “And when those things come up, you think about the people you love. Being able to see (Levi) run around here and enjoy his time with the players — it makes everything worthwhile.”