Jim Wilbanks Shaves His Head for the SCCi and Breast Cancer Awareness

Saturday evening at TAG was coming about. Gail and I brought our chairs and found a spot. I noticed Cathy Borer, Tim White and Berta Kirchman a couple of rows back and went back to say hello. Somehow the conversation turned to cancer. There is so much of it in my circle of acquaintances right now. I recounted that a friend of mine was going through chemo. She had come up with the idea of shaving her head before the hair began to fall out. She consulted with some of our male friends who had shaved their heads. Soon three of them, including her boyfriend, resolved to shave their heads in solidarity. That moved me to tears. I wondered if I could take that step. All my life I have had a school or occupation which required having my hair cut and shaving. When I retired ten years ago, I resolved to never cut my hair or shave again. I really liked my hair long.

Someone in the conversation said “what would it take to get you to shave your head?” I said “a lot”. Soon I said “for a thousand dollar contribution the SCCI.” Cathy Borer overhead this comment and asked “Are you serious?” I said yes!

Announcements began and soon it was the SCCI’s turn. The first thing Brian Krebs did was award me a service award. That was unexpected and deeply appreciated. As I returned to my seat, I caught Cathy’s eye and, in a moment of nostalgic euphoria, gave her a big “thumbs up”, and shouted “YES!”  At that point, Ron Miller, the SCCi’s Fundraising chair, pulled out a receipt from his wallet, found a pen in his pocket, and jotted down the announcement for Brian to read. He showed it to me and I said ok. Gail had been gone and now she returned. I filled her in. The announcement was made and my commitment was sealed. When Maureen Handler got up to talk about SERA next year, she offered the first hundred dollars. Then Dan Barnick announced that if the thousand was raised, he would add five hundred.

Jim Jim after the head shaving Photo by Chuck Canfield   I love the SCCI. It is a truly remarkable triumph union of will and determination together with the generosity of a lot of cavers. I joined when I first heard about it. I soon made one of their first contributions by guiding a caver who couldn’t find Richard’s Cave. I was a property manager for twelve years of the Fox Mountain Cave Preserve. During that time a bunch of cavers surveyed the property, which had never been done. We built a kiosk, blazed trails, put in fence ladders, opened up Byers with an acquisition and added more property on the north. As far as I know, it is the largest privately owned cave preserve in the world. I retired to devote more time to the SKTF only because I had three other local cavers who deserved a chance to run it. I served on the board of directors through some tumultuous times. I currently sit on the John Van Swearingen IV Stewardship Award board. I want to tell you that the members of the board and the people you think of as central to the conservancy put their money, talent and time where their mouth is. All of you reading this should be proud of this group of speleo-heros.

As the evening progressed, I became anxious. I confided to a few that I was regretting my commitment. Women were running their hands through my hair and bemoaning our loss. If you know me, you know that a commitment made is very important to me. Donna Cobb came by and said she was tasked with finding some clippers. I had said from the beginning that it had to be done right. We discussed maybe just cutting the pony tail. Who would have thought that on the Saturday of TAG someone would have some electric clippers? My luck or curse came in the form of my good friend Allison who had a dog grooming kit.

Soon I noticed Maureen with a fist full of cash. She was working the entire crowd raising the money. This is Maureen’s forte. When the auction wound down, Maureen got up, grabbed the mike and announced she had eight hundred dollars and just needed “ten more twenty dollar bills”. Money began to appear and soon the magic number was reached. Maureen briefly huddled with Bill Putnam and asked over the mike “how much for the beard?” I immediately said “two hundred dollars”. Bill said, “I’ll cover that”. I wish I had said five hundred. I sat down and was confronted with about a hundred camera lenses. The shearing was painless and much less stressful as it was Allison at the helm.

I came home, put away the hair brush, elastic bands and the shampoo and began wearing a hat. I just want to close by saying the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to become a sustaining member. If we all give what we can, the sky is the limit.

Jim Wilbanks NSS 8967FE, SCCI 89.

Postscript: The total amount raised was $1,700!

 by Jim Wilbanks