A few years ago, Stephen Murphy, known as “Murph,” and his friends, John O’Brien and Brian Dye, developed a new tradition: wear a wig to a bar in New York City in the middle of January. What started as something for laughs has evolved into an annual fundraiser for cancer research. This year, the trio raised over $5,000 for the Cancer Research Institute. Learn more about the symbolism and laughter behind the Wig Party.
Do we have a personal connection to cancer?
The unfortunate answer to this question for most people is yes, and the three of us are no different. One quick anecdote: in 2008, my father was diagnosed with leukemia and treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering. As a college freshman, I could hardly grip the severity of the situation, but he continually assured me it was “no big deal.” Thanks to research, medical advancements, and my uncle being a perfect bone marrow match, he was able to get a transplant which saved his life. The side effects of intense exposure to radiation still serve as a reminder to that time of his life, but I think he would agree with me when I say it’s better than the alternative.
Why did you choose to fundraise for the Cancer Research Institute?
Once we decided to turn the Wig Party into a fundraiser, there really was not much deliberation around which organization would be best suited for the proceeds. Being NYC-based, the Cancer Research Institute was a no-brainer. New York City has some of the best hospitals in the world, and the Cancer Research Institute funds researchers at them. Friends and family of ours have been treated at various hospitals all over Manhattan—choosing CRI was almost a way of paying it forward. CRI is supporting innovative research on a daily basis to increase the overall cancer survival rate, and we look forward to continuously supporting the organization for years to come.
What was inspiration behind wig?
It started as a silly idea. The year was probably 2014. Brian bumped into a few people playfully wearing wigs to the bar one weekend, and the three of us decided it would be fun to throw our own wig party. So, in January 2015, we finally gathered all of our family and friends in one place to look like their absolute ridiculous, best, and eccentric selves at the inaugural Wig Party. The first year we did it, the bar was probably 95 percent strangers that did not have a clue why there were 30 people wearing wigs. Nonetheless, we decided to make a tradition out of it because, well, not much goes on in NYC during the month of January.
Fast forward a few years, and we realized the momentum we had created could be used for some good. The harsh reality some cancer patients face is the side effect of losing their hair. We wanted to show our support for everyone out there battling cancer (including a few Wig Party attendees). Now, here we are today, having raised nearly $10,000 over the past two events!
What made the Wig Party successful?
In short: making things fun. The past few years we’ve had a photographer come and capture the day. If there’s one thing millennials love, it’s a good excuse to post on social media (as comical as this sounds, its true!). It also helps that our network is filled with very good-hearted people who greatly support what we’ve tried to create. There is also a DJ for the day—which results in a classic dance circle or two— some t-shirts for sale, and the party starts early, usually a 2 pm kick-off. We hope to see everyone next year at the Seventh Annual Wig Party. We will be implementing some new traditions, including a prize for the best wig/costume combination!
What is one piece of advice you would give to a fundraiser?
You would be surprised at how many people within your network are not only willing, but happy to donate toward an event you’re hosting! Remember to have fun. At the end of the day, any amount you helped raised is a step forward in finding a cure for this disease.
Thank you, Murph, John, and Brian!
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All photos courtesy of Stephen Murphy, John O’Brien, and Brian Dye