A sorority member at Southern Arkansas University is sporting a new look after shaving her head to raise money for cancer research.
Phi Mu sorority member Marissa Aranda not only shaved her long brown hair, she also did it in front of a crowd of people Saturday at an outdoor public ceremony in Little Rock, more than two hours from her school.
Aranda, of Hope, Ark., was inspired to go to such great lengths, literally, when the Little Rock alumni chapter of Phi Mu approached her sorority chapter about doing something big to spark a fundraising drive during the month of September, National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
"I honestly had a 'Come to Jesus' moment, and I just didn't think it was that big of a deal to raise awareness and for another kid to enjoy my hair because mine is going to grow back," Aranda, 21, told Goodmorningamerica.com. "I said, 'I'm down for the cause.'"
With Aranda's promise made, her fellow sorority sisters got started raising the $7,500 they set as their goal, soliciting donations online and from local businesses and even hosting cornhole (akin to horseshoes) tournaments before home football games to raise money.
By their deadline of last Saturday, Phi Mu had exceeded its goal, raising $10,000.
"I had a dream 18 days before that we had exceeded our goal and raised $10,000, so to see that dream come true was amazing, and kind of weird," Aranda said.
On Saturday, at a public park in Little Rock, Aranda had nearly 14 inches, or about four ponytails' worth, of her hair shaved off that she then donated to Wigs for Kids.
"Getting ready is much easier. I just wake up and put on some makeup and can leave," she said of how she's adjusting to her bald head. "It feels fine."
Aranda had not just her fellow sorority members by her side on Saturday, but also a very special guest, a 12-year-old Little Rock boy, Elijah Talley, who is battling cancer. Talley and his family watched Aranda shave her head just before they flew to Philadelphia for further treatment.
"I hope he saw that the support was there and that people still care about him and the cause," Aranda said.
Aranda and her sorority sisters are donating half of the $10,000 they raised to the American Childhood Cancer Organization of Arkansas in honor of Talley and Creed Foster, a 5-year-old brother of a Phi Mu member who is also battling cancer.
The other $5,000 raised by the sorority will be donated to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Phi Mu's national philanthropy.
Aranda's bold move to shave her head has accomplished just what she and her sorority sisters wanted, to raise awareness about childhood cancer. Aranda says she was stopped during a late-night grocery store run by well-wishers who recognized her bald head and the sorority as a whole will be recognized at the university's football game this weekend.
"Marissa rocks a bald head, to be completely honest," Makenzi Hamilton, president of the Epsilon Omicron Chapter of Phi Mu at Southern Arkansas, told Goodmorningamerica.com. "She was beautiful before and she's even more beautiful now."
"We all went up on Saturday to watch her shave her head, and it brought tears to our eyes because Marissa did it selflessly," she said.