Clemson University

‘It means the world to us.’ Clemson athletes shave heads for kids with cancer

Myleigh McDowell enjoys seeing people who have their heads shaved the same way she does.

The seven-year-old, who was diagnosed with cancer in February, shaved her mom Jessica’s head in March “to make her look like me.”

“I didn’t want her to feel like she was going through it alone, so, as much as I could go through it with her, I’m willing to do that so she doesn’t feel like she’s the only one going through it by herself,” Jessica explained. “I want her to feel confident and comfortable with her hair. At the beginning, she wasn’t comfortable, but now she is rocking that head.”

Myleigh was surrounded by several Clemson athletes who also were sporting shaved heads at offensive lineman Sean Pollard’s “All-Off for Cancer” event held Wednesday afternoon outside Clemson’s indoor football facility.

She was one of more than a dozen kids battling cancer or in remission who grabbed clippers and shaved a Clemson athlete’s head.

Several football players and men’s soccer players had their heads shaved, while a couple of women’s soccer players received haircuts.

The Tiger mascot, cheerleaders and other student-athletes, including Kelly Bryant, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell, also attended and offered support.

“It just means my teammates have my back,” event organize rand Clemson starting right guard Sean Pollard said. “I went to Christian Wilkins, who is one of our leaders on our team, and said, ‘Hey man, I need y’all out here. I understand if you don’t want to cut your hair, but I need my support. I need my teammates.’ It was awesome they came out in full force.”

This is the second year the event, which benefits Clement’s Kindness, has taken place.

Last year Pollard raised $5,000 for the organization that helps families deal with the cost of medical bills and other expenses. The goal for this year is $15,000.

Pollard was moved to start the event after visiting children with cancer at a hospital in the Upstate last year. He plans to continue holding the event next year and hopes to expand it throughout the country in the years to come.

Pollard is well aware of the pain cancer can cause.

“I lost my grandma my senior year of high school. I know she’s up there sitting next to (God) looking down all excited. That’s why I do it, for her and for God and these kids out here smiling and playing with the Tiger,” Pollard said. “This is the happiest these kids have looked in a while. When you go to the hospital you see them strapped up and these kids look like they have no life left in them. Then they come out here and that’s God’s work that they’re still here.”

Myleigh has held a positive outlook since being diagnosed, always smiling and telling Jessica and her father Robert that she will be fine.

She was smiling nonstop on Wednesday as she shaved Clemson soccer player Tanner Dieterich’s head, high-fived Bryant, Wilkins and Ferrell and played basketball with other kids outside the indoor practice facility.

“This event means the world to us. I think it’s so awesome that these athletes would take their time out and they would shave their heads for my daughter and everybody else that has cancer,” Robert said. “This is so special. They feel wanted. They feel needed. They see other people just like them. She is so excited to be here doing this.”

The event was also thrilling for the athletes who participated.

“Myleigh was awesome. She has the biggest heart. It’s astonishing that someone who’s going through so much can constantly smile and impact people’s lives,” Dieterich said. “Everyone she talks to, she puts a smile on their face and has fun. She has the best family too. Getting to know them, it was awesome. It was a great experience.”

Myleigh has 12 weeks remaining in her 33-week treatment. She went to the doctor Wednesday morning before coming to Pollard’s event and was told that everything looks good.

She had to go through radiation every day for two weeks earlier during her treatment, has undergone chemotherapy several times and has four rounds of chemo remaining. Once her treatment is complete she will be in remission as long as nothing unexpected pops up over the next few months.

“It’s been hard to have something happen to your child that you can’t fix and that you really don’t understand why they’re going through it,”Jessica said. “It’s not easy, but I think it would have been a lot harder if she didn’t have the strength that she has or the faith that she has.”

Jessica will soon be receiving another haircut from Myleigh as she works to continue to do whatever she can to help her daughter.

“She told me this weekend she wants to cut it again,”Jessica said smiling. “So she’s going to get the clippers back out and cut it off.”

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