Duke Shave & Buzz club ‘puts heads together’ to reach $1 million in donations

<p>Junior Jack Erens getting his head shaved.</p>

Junior Jack Erens getting his head shaved.

After nine years of fundraising, Duke’s Shave & Buzz club reached $1 million in total donations for young adult cancer patients in May in partnership with Durham Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE).

Shave & Buzz was founded by the family and friends of Bobby Menges, a Duke student who passed away from cancer in 2017, and cancer survivor Mark Schreiber, Trinity ‘18, who beat the disease shortly afterwards. The club’s proceeds fund the I’m Not Done Yet Foundation, an organization also founded by Menges’s family that supports adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients and survivors.

Both Menges and Schreiber were members of Durham PIKE, then known as Duke PIKE, when they received their diagnoses. In support of their brothers, the fraternity has played a critical role in pioneering Shave & Buzz donation efforts since the club’s founding. Notably, the club’s three current co-presidents are all Durham PIKE members.

The cornerstone of the Shave & Buzz club’s work is an annual fundraising event where members solicit donations from community members before shaving their heads. 100% of the funds raised are used to support programs and services for AYA cancer patients at the Duke University Medical Center.

Donations are raised online and via tabling on Bryan Center Plaza for a week leading up to the ultimate buzzing. Whether it’s by dyeing their hair neon colors or getting pied in the face, participants aim to make their tabling display as memorable as possible for passersby in order to draw attention to their cause.

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Shave and Buzz member getting pied.

“On BC Plaza, we're getting people that walk by nonstop. Maybe it's even annoying at some point sometimes, but it's for a good cause,” said senior Michael Shoichet, Duke Shave & Buzz co-president. “Every year, new freshmen come in and obviously have no idea about what this club is, so we’re getting them involved and having them see what it's about.”

Club members complete challenges in the days leading up to the head-shaving event to engage a wider audience and elicit more donations. Shoichet noted that such incentives “go a long way” and that the club’s success can be attributed to the creativity and devotion its members bring.

“Everyone in the club will get their own personal page, so you can donate to someone specifically and they all set a benchmark goal,” he said. “Then we'll do challenges throughout the week, like ‘if I reach 500 bucks, I’ll do this to my hair,’ and ‘1000 bucks to run a half marathon.’”

This year’s final buzz event was filled with speakers, music and food, making it a fun experience and somewhat of a Duke tradition, according to Shoichet. In its effort to support Duke students, Shave & Buzz and I’m Not Done Yet rallied support this year for a Divinity School graduate student battling cancer.

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Countess Authement, Divinity School '24 and AYA cancer survivor, speaking at Duke Shave & Buzz's April 4 event.

By the end of this event, the club had raised $185,000 for the year. After the fundraiser had originally concluded in early April, more donations arrived from Duke graduate students, alums and company donation matches. The club’s three co-presidents then received the news from I’m Not Done Yet that with these additions, Shave & Buzz had raised $200,000 for the year and reached a cumulative $1 million dollars in funds raised since the club’s founding.

“This was the most successful year we've had, and we've seen huge amounts of growth,” said co-president and junior Nate Drebin. “It already started pretty big, raising tens of thousands in the first year. So it's been really cool to see that since Bobby's class has graduated, the fundraiser has continued to grow and his memory continues to live on.”

The co-presidents and Menges were “ecstatic” about reaching this milestone, but also saw this as an opportunity.

“[Reaching $1 million] was pretty exciting,” Drebin said. “Now we go back to work … How can we do more? How can we use that to keep expanding and growing? How can we leverage this to kind of grow our impact?”

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Students having their heads shaved at Duke Shave & Buzz's April 6 event.

That is what the club and foundation continues to do: grow. With I’m Not Done Yet working alongside them, Shave & Buzz expanded its presence to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2023 and plans to reach out to other universities to inspire more chapters nationwide.

“We're trying to use the summer to kind of promote Shave & Buzz to other schools before they start planning their philanthropy initiatives for the following years,” Drebin said. “We've talked to Clemson and [the] University of Miami about it last year, and we're going to try and get them involved this year.”

The club wants to grow its presence at Duke too, and co-president Alex Schlessinger, a junior, and Shoichet both mentioned wanting to expand the club’s social media presence to encourage more students to participate and fundraise.

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From left to right: then-juniors Matthew Cooper, Jesse Conen, Ezra Odio, Zac Abud and Ray Kwei after getting their heads shaved.

The three current co-presidents participated in this year’s events by waxing their legs and shaving their heads. They joked that they “have a badge of honor” walking around campus for supporting the cause.

“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to lead a group of selfless and passionate individuals who are willing to undergo a bit of public embarrassment for the greater good,” Shlessinger wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

Drebin expressed his gratitude for the work of Shave & Buzz members past and present, noting in particular the contributions of Max Huber and Vik Manocha — both Trinity ‘24 — who served on the club’s 2022 leadership team.

Lizzy Menges, Bobby Menges’s mother and founder of the I’m Not Done Yet Foundation, supports the club every year and is impressed by the annual commitment of its members.

“Their enthusiasm, creativity and coordinating skills are on full display as they work through multiple channels, garnering the support of the University, collaborating with the greater Durham community, engaging their families and friends, soliciting sponsorships and generating donations of food, raffles and auction items,” Menges wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

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Durham PIKE members who participated in Duke Shave & Buzz's April 6 head-shaving event.

Through her work with the foundation, Menges is dedicated to filling gaps in research and care for cancer patients. She appreciates how the club’s donations have supported this end. 

“A major focus of I’m Not Done Yet is fertility preservation for young AYA cancer patients and survivors,” Menges wrote. “Every year, the funds raised by Shave & Buzz support the Duke Cancer Institute and Duke Fertility Services as they partner to counsel and support patients’ fertility preservation.”

In addition to fertility preservation, the foundation also aims to provide support to cancer patients transitioning from a pediatric to AYA status, which Menges noted is an “underserved demographic.”

With 2025 marking 10 years of Shave & Buzz, Menges hopes that next year’s event will be the biggest to date, as Duke and Shave & Buzz are “not done yet” in their fight for young cancer patients and survivors.

Halle Vazquez | Staff Reporter

Halle Vazquez is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor for the news department.


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