by Morgan Smith
The 24 Hours of Booty campaign is nothing new for south Charlotte’s Chris Fernandez. He’s been biking in the event since 2004. But when a brain tumor caused some unexpected surgeries in 2009, the organization and its mission took on a whole new meaning.
This past weekend, Fernandez and his booty team, Team Impact, held a fundraiser for the organization at The Cut Barbershop in uptown Charlotte. The event, both symbolic and empowering, left Fernandez excited and with no hair.
Fernandez has been growing his hair out for two years. After getting sick in the summer of 2008, he’s learned taking life for granted is not the way to live.
“At first, we didn’t really know what it was, but it turned out to be a tumor,” Fernandez said. And after brain surgery in January 2009, things went terribly wrong.
“Taking the tumor out caused more problems than it should have,” he said, resulting in more surgeries.
Now, Fernandez suffers from terminal brain damage, where he mostly struggles with fatigue and dizziness. Luckily, he says he’s mentally OK and is happy to continue his work with 24 Hours of Booty: the annual event running 11 years where hundreds of bikers descend onto the Booty Loop – a trail that winds through Myers Park – for a 24-hour biking and fundraising marathon that benefits the Levine Cancer Institute and the LIVESTRONG Foundation.
In 2009, in the wake of his health issues, Fernandez was the top fundraiser for the event, but rode on the back of a tandem because of his health. By 2010, he was back on the bike, where he rode 18 miles.
That’s when Fernandez decided to let his hair grow.
“I decided I just wanted to grow my hair. I kept it really short between my brain surgeries,” he said.
And after the 24 Hours of Booty event in 2011 where Fernandez rode 100 miles, his wife Beth had an idea.
“My wife said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to cut your hair off in front of everybody?’” he said. “The idea was to show that cancer victims are beautiful with short hair and people should own their buzz cut.”
So the two put their plan into action, giving back to organizations that became so dear to Fernandez’s heart including LIVESTRONG Foundation, the Levine Cancer Institute and Brain Tumor Fund of the Carolinas – another organization sponsored by 24 Hours of Booty.
Around 45 people, mostly friends and neighbors, gathered at The Cut on Saturday, July 14, for Buzz for Booty, where Fernandez shaved his head for charity.
“(The Cut) donated space, time, beer and labor. There was no charge for haircuts, but the typical $20 and they gave us all the proceeds,” he said. “We raised almost $600 through haircuts and a raffle. For the first year, we were really proud. I think we got in 15 haircuts in two hours.”
Chris and Beth Fernandez also were joined by other members of Team Impact, who ride in honor of Brett Morgan, a former team member and Wells Fargo executive who was killed in uptown Charlotte last January.
And as this year’s Charlotte 24 Hours of Booty event nears, Fernandez is gearing up for another great event. Although he probably won’t ride quite as many miles because he’s hoping to be more social. This year’s event is later this month, set to run from 7 p.m. on July 27 to 7 p.m. on July 28.
As for Buzz for Booty, Fernandez is already thinking of ways to make next year’s fundraising event even bigger and better.
“It was a very cool event and I just want it to be out there and let people know about it. It’s getting a lot of exposure for (24 Hours of Booty),” he said, “and hopefully it will let everybody know bald is beautiful.” q