Snapping photos to fight cancer just clicked for Megan Kunstman. Kunstman, 20, is taking professional photos of people if they donate money to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for children’s cancer research.
The fundraising effort gives the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student a chance to combine two loves: charity work and photography.
Kunstman got the idea while taking photos at a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser earlier this month, organized by students in UW-L’s Coate Hall, one of the campus residence halls. Students raised about $24,000 by asking participants to either cut their hair or shave it off in exchange for sponsorships.
“The energy,” Kunstman said. “I got tears in my eyes.”
The experience inspired her to help.
St. Baldrick’s works with doctors and hospitals to fund leading research in childhood cancer. The foundation raised nearly $33.5 million last year.
Lisa Jicinsky, hall director for Coate, helped coordinate the UW-L event. The St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, now in its sixth year, is always a passionate affair as students and other participants build solidarity from sacrificing their locks, Jicinsky said. Hair is also donated if it’s long enough.
Kunstman wants to raise $5,000 by next year’s event — and next year, she plans to take her own turn under the hair clippers.
Meanwhile, to raise money toward her goal, Kunstman is offering her camera lens to anyone who agrees to donate before the end of spring semester.
Jesse Eggert, 21, is Kunstman’s boyfriend, but he’s also a donor.
The junior in UW-L’s therapeutic recreation program said he might post the photos on Facebook, or send copies back home to his family. Either way, he wants to provide a better life for children struggling with cancer, Eggert said. About 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to St. Baldrick’s.
“They have to deal with issues like that at such a young age,” Eggert said. “Anything I can do.”
She hopes people can donate up to $150 — that includes the session and digital copies of the photos — though she admits she’s flexible for her fellow college students, “because students are so poor,” Kunstman said.
A psychology major, Kunstman works on the side as a freelance photographer.
For her, cancer is personal. Her mother had cancer, and both of her grandmothers died of the disease, Kunstman said.
Cancer isn’t something children should have to face, Kunstman said.
“They should be able to go out and play,” Kunstman said. “They should be able to laugh.”