Jeff Freedman will wake up Friday morning and slip on a bald cap.
He'll join an estimated 10,000 people nationwide who will be wearing one all day—a sign of their support in the fight against cancer.
Every third Friday in October for the past seven years, Freedman and thousands of others have donned bald caps as part of the “Be Bold, Be Bald” campaign. Freedman started the movement—which also serves as a fundraiser for more than 50 cancer charities—after his friend and Boston-based ad agency co-founder, Mike Connell, was diagnosed with the disease.
“It was a long two years of him battling [cancer],” Freedman said. “What I found out in those two years was that most of my strength came from Mike, as weak as he looked. It blew me away how strong he was, how confident, courageous. He kept a positive attitude. The more people I’ve met through [Be Bold, Be Bald], I realize how strong they all are.”
After Connell died, Freedman wanted a way to honor him. He had actually shared the bald cap idea with Connell while he was still alive. Connell approved, saying he didn’t want people to shave their heads for him.
“It’s still not an easy thing to do, to put on a bald cap,” he said. “It’s easy to do physically, but it’s emotional.”
Freedman often describes the campaign as a “vanity challenge” rather than a physical effort like a benefit marathon. Anyone can wear a bald cap for a day and no one needs to train in advance. It’s also more symbolic, he said, of the hardships everyone fighting cancer knows too well.
Recently the bald caps have been updated to allow people to use them as a canvas for writing the name of the person they're supporting or to display some words of inspiration, Freedman said.
“The end goal is to not need to put on another bald cap, and that’s not because they’d figured out how to give chemo without losing your hair, but because we’ve figured out how to cure cancer,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal. Until then, I want to give people a way to show their strength and support other people and make a difference. You don’t have to have cancer to help fight it.”
Freedman also acknowledged Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comments about his efforts to cure cancer. Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer last year, spoke Wednesday about his Cancer Moonshot Initiative at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston.
Biden chairs the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, which focuses on making the most of federal investments and private sector efforts to support cancer research and make strides in the prevention, screening, treatment and care of cancer patients.
Though Freedman hasn’t been able to connect with Biden yet—other public figures like Julian Edelman and Kathy Bates have participated in “Be Bold, Be Bald”—he said that he would love to get involved with him and that Biden’s priorities align with the goals of the campaign.
“What we learn from the world’s best nurses, physicians and researchers—even if we couldn’t save our son—is that science and medicine and technology are progressing faster than ever” Biden said in his speech, "and there is the possibility to save the countless others of our daughters and our sons."