Head coach Hugh McCutcheon won’t be the only bald member of the Gophers volleyball team anymore.
Senior setter Mia Tabberson joined him in the hairless ranks Monday when she shaved her head after raising about $12,000 for pediatric cancer research.
“There’s been jokes about how I match Hugh now, because he’s bald and I’m bald,” Tabberson said.
Tabberson was the only female athlete to take part in a fundraiser for pediatric cancer that football wide receiver Connor Cosgrove started.
Cosgrove, who is in rapid early remission from leukemia, said when he first envisioned this fundraiser, he never imagined a woman would want to shave her head, even for charity.
“I had pretty low expectations for how many guys we could get to do it, and then I had no expectation for a girl to do it,” Cosgrove said. “I think that’s beautiful what she just did. … I’m overwhelmed.”
Tabberson first learned of the idea from Assistant Director to Student-Athlete Welfare Anissa Lightner, who has helped Cosgrove organize the fundraiser. Lightner said she was toying with the idea of shaving her own head and asked Tabberson how much she would pay to see it.
Instead, Tabberson said she would just shave her head with Lightner.
Tabberson said what started out as a joke soon became reality.
“I couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to,” Tabberson said.
Tabberson has 160 volunteer hours at the University and spends most Fridays volunteering at schools and in the community. Lightner said she wasn’t surprised when Tabberson agreed to lose her hair.
“Mia’s heart is just in the right place. She just always is giving back,” Lightner said. “She’s just a really caring, passionate person.”
Not defined by hair
While most women may fear having no hair, Tabberson said going bald would be a relief.
“I have no emotional connection to my hair. So many girls define themselves by having long hair or identify themselves as female with hair,” Tabberson said. “I don’t like brushing my hair. I don’t like washing it. I don’t like doing it.”
While Tabberson may not care about her hair, some of her teammates do.
Junior middle blocker Tori Dixon is Tabberson’s roommate and identifies with those girls that have an emotional connection with their hair.
Dixon said she fully supported Tabberson raising money for a good cause but wished her hair didn’t have to suffer.
“There’s a couple of them who would rather me not do this,” Tabberson said. “There’s some people who would rather me save the world without losing any hair or just getting a trim rather than going completely bald.”
Before Tabberson cut her hair, her roommates created “30 Days of Mia’s Hair” in which she tried new styles and colors before she would have nothing left to work with.
“I’m just going to have to live with a bald roommate,” Dixon said. “[I’m] going to have to cover that baby up, rub it at night, I don’t know.”
Dixon said Tabberson is excited for the shorter look because it gives her another look with which to experiment.
Setting an example
Tabberson also has a personal reason for taking part in the fundraiser.
Her godmother from South Carolina was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. While her godmother is now cancer free, Tabberson said it was a difficult time.
“It was kind of hard for me to not be there when she was going through her treatment process,” Tabberson. “A little bit feels like I’m kind of giving back to her and helping her.”
Tabberson is also a psychology major, and her senior thesis focuses on children. She said raising money for pediatric cancer research had special meaning for her.
“[Kids] are fighting cancer every day, and we’re fighting to beat Illinois,” Tabberson said. “It just puts you in perspective.”
Cosgrove said that Tabberson and others’ dedication to the fundraiser inspired people who weren’t even considering shaving their heads to join in at the last minute.
Even freshman outside hitter Daly Santana wanted to shave her head, but she couldn’t sign the written consent because she is only 17.
“At this point, if you do have hair, you’re going to look weird,” Cosgrove said.
Cosgrove said he knows from personal experience what Tabberson’s gesture means.
“You peek into rooms as you’re going by, and there’s little girls that are just beautiful but they don’t have any hair,” Cosgrove said. “They probably feel so alone.”
“They see all these girls, all their role models, they all have hair. Their Barbies have hair,” Cosgrove said. “For Mia and Anissa now, they can go in there and let these little girls know, ‘Hey, you aren’t alone. You are beautiful and you’re going to be OK.’”