Just a Little Off the Top: Dougan Shaves Head in his Sister’s Honor
September 26, 2021
As senior Aidan Dougan talked to a gathering of students and teachers, his sister gave him a nudge, reminding him why he planned to shave his head for childhood cancer.
“Thanks Ari,” he said.
He picked up her picture, blown onto his leg by a breeze, and told her story. Then, the event began, and Dougan said goodbye to the hair he had been growing for 26 months.
Dougan, along with friends and teacher Allen Weltig, shaved his head Sept. 24 in the courtyard. The event raised over 3,000 dollars for childhood cancer research in just over ten days of fundraising. Dougan’s connection to the cause is his sister Arianna, who passed away November 2017 from neuroblastoma.
“I’m doing this to honor her legacy and continue to spread Ari’s light,” Dougan said. “For me it’s more the symbolism [of it]. It’s more than cutting hair. It’s raising awareness, raising money. The hair is just a byproduct of that.”
Spreading Ari’s Light, the foundation created in Arianna’s honor, continues to raise money with events like the Challah Bake, raising “dough” for cancer. This event, though, had a Ladue connection.
It was the first time Dougan was able to raise money in a school setting, partially thanks to sponsor and teacher Matthew Horn. However, Horn felt strongly that it was Dougan, not him, who was mainly responsible for everything.
“I’ve known him for three years now, having him as a teacher,” Horn said. “So, I’ve gotten to know him very well and what the charity means to him. I’m really just here to support him. In terms of setting it all up, that was 100 percent Aidan Dougan.”
Dougan decided to plan this event just a few weeks ago, feeling it was a perfect time during September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. He spread the word any way he could, reaching out to friends, sending emails and talking to teachers.
“He’s dedicated these years to his sister and to the charity. It’s obvious that she still lives on in the family.
— Matthew Horn
Dougan’s mom, Lori Zucker, was very proud of her son for deciding to share his sister’s story in such a public way. While he has shaved his head four times before, this is the first time he has done it in front of other people. Before, the act was something he did to stand in solidarity with his sister, making her feel like she wasn’t the only bald person. Now, he does it to honor her legacy.
“I’m his mom, so I’m proud, I’m so proud of him,” Zucker said. “The other times he was not wanting to make it a public thing, he was just going to do it because it was a good deed. I was so proud that this time he wanted to step up, make a point of it and share with other people about why he’s doing it.”
Part of the reason the family felt so strongly about the importance of the fundraiser was because, oftentimes, childhood cancer gets overshadowed by more prevalent cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer. Zucker noticed that childhood cancer only gets “4% of cancer funding,”. She knows their 3,000 dollars is only a “drop in the bucket, but every drop counts.”
“We have to get more kids realizing that kids get cancer,” Zucker said. “If you talk about years in lives lost, a child that dies at three has lost 70 years. The money should be more equal. 80% of pediatric cancer patients survive, but when they do survive, they survive with a whole lifetime of health problems. They’re dealing with severe health problems for the rest of their life.”
While Ari passed away almost five years ago, her legacy of sparkling kindness and blinding hope continues. Horn notices some of these same qualities in Dougan.
“He’s just a high character kid,” Horn said. “I’ve known that for three years: he’s very passionate about this cause and very family oriented. The kid always has a smile on his face. He uplifts those around him. I see it in [school], [and] how those in our class gravitate towards him and have respect for him. He carries himself so well with this, I know it’s a very heavy topic. If I was him, I don’t know if I’d have the strength to do all this. He’s strong for his family.”