120 Airmen go bald to support cancer patient

Berlynn Brownlee, a “Go Bald for Brayden” volunteer, shaves the head of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Forrest, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, April 25, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during an event to show support for Brayden Mitchell, 5, recently diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer. Brayden’s father, U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. David Mitchell, an Ohio Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot, died in an F-16 training accident near Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., shortly before Brayden’s birth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren/Released)

Berlynn Brownlee, a “Go Bald for Brayden” volunteer, shaves the head of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Forrest, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, April 25, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during an event to show support for Brayden Mitchell, 5, recently diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer. Brayden’s father, U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. David Mitchell, an Ohio Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot, died in an F-16 training accident near Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., shortly before Brayden’s birth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren/Released)

Volunteers for “Go Bald for Brayden” give haircuts to participants April 25, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during an event to show support for Brayden Mitchell, 5, recently diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer. Following Brayden’s diagnosis, military members from around the globe have showed their support by shaving their heads. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren/Released)

Volunteers for “Go Bald for Brayden” give haircuts to participants April 25, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during an event to show support for Brayden Mitchell, 5, recently diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer. Following Brayden’s diagnosis, military members from around the globe have showed their support by shaving their heads. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren/Released)

Participants in the “Go Bald for Brayden” event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, pose for a group photo April 25, 2014, after shaving their heads to show support for Brayden Mitchell, 5, recently diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer. Spangdahlem Airmen donated approximately $5,000 and 120 Airmen shaved their heads. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren/Released)

Participants in the “Go Bald for Brayden” event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, pose for a group photo April 25, 2014, after shaving their heads to show support for Brayden Mitchell, 5, recently diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer. Spangdahlem Airmen donated approximately $5,000 and 120 Airmen shaved their heads. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Warren/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- For a few hours on April 25, the Skelton Memorial Fitness Center was transformed into a makeshift barber shop as more than 100 Spangdahlem Airmen flooded the gym to shave their heads in support of a young boy battling cancer.

Military members from around the world decided to "Go Bald for Brayden" after hearing the story of Brayden Mitchell, a 5-year-old boy recently diagnosed with stage-3 Wilms Tumor, a form of kidney cancer.

The cause has a special significance for military members because his father, U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. David Mitchell, an Ohio Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot, perished in an F-16 training accident near Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., shortly before Brayden's birth.

Volunteers at Spangdahlem's "Go Bald for Brayden" event, hosted by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandyn Pilon, a 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management and analysis technician from South Jordan, Utah, shaved 120 heads and collected approximately $5,000 in donations for the Mitchell family's support organization, "Brayden's Backers."

Brayden's mother, Kristi Mitchell, is extremely grateful for all the support her family has received and says it has a positive impact on Brayden as well.

"We've had so much support from the Air Force ... from our close friends from pilot training to others we don't even know," she said. "It has lifted Brayden's spirits and he enjoys seeing all the photos people have been sending."

For the participants, the chance to help a child in need was more than enough motivation to shave their heads and donate a few dollars.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Belanger, 480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit end of runway superintendent from Waynesville, Mo., knows the difficulty of dealing with cancer in his own family and organized the participation of several other 480th AMU Airmen.

"There is a little boy that needs help, and no matter who or where you are, if you are in a position to help, that is all that matters," Belanger said.

Senior Airman Jacob Brents, a 52nd LRS fuels laboratory technician from Crane, Texas, was unable to attend and shave his head but still wanted to support. Although he said shaving his head would have more sentimental value to Brayden than money, Brents gave the largest donation of the day, contributing $1,000 to the family.

"Think back to when you were in need and maybe you had a person who was there for you, looking out for you or helping you along the way," Brents said. "Here is where you pass the torch."