JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (March 7, 2015) -- Cheerful smiles and heavy hearts filled the room, as Soldiers from 62nd Medical Brigade, family members, and local residents gathered to participate in the "Shave-A-Service Member" charity event, here.The event raised $8,200 in support of child cancer research and exceeded their original donation goal of $5,000. Fifty attendees shaved their heads and seven donated their hair trimmings for wigs.Showcasing her infectious charisma and fun-loving personality, Sgt. 1st Class Madeline Diaz, 47th Combat Support Hospital, thrived in her role as coordinator and master of ceremonies. She lightened the mood with her humor-filled commentary while enlightening participants to the ongoing fight against cancer.Diaz, 37, is very familiar with that fight. She was 25 years old and preparing for an upcoming deployment when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer."I was angry at the world at that time, but I fought through it and it made me stronger," said Diaz, whose cancer resurfaced at age 26 and again in May 2014.Though she has a personal battle with cancer, it was a story of a fellow soldier from her unit that inspired her collaboration with the St. Baldrick's Foundation, said Diaz.Chief Warrant Officer Carlos Henao's son Freddy, 7, was diagnosed with leukemia four years ago. He shared his family's story about his son's fight with cancer and explained to her his participation in two previous "Shave-A-Service Member" events."We were discussing it at staff duty one night and she seemed very excited about it," said Henao, "Two weeks later she contacted the organization and started planning this event."Diaz organized the first ever "Shave-A-Service Member" event at JBLM with help from Henao, more than 20 volunteers from the 62nd Med. Bde. and the Madigan Army Medical Center."When I mentioned this to Sgt. 1st Class Diaz it wasn't with the intent to plan our own event with the charity," said Henao, whose family were the guests of honor, "But I'm glad she did, because it shed light on a serious topic and brought our soldiers together like a family."Family has always been a major aspect of Diaz's life. She is the single mother to her son Ivan, 3, and as the oldest of six children, she shouldered the responsibility of providing for her siblings at an early age."I had to get a job in the 5th grade," said Diaz, "I had to buy diapers, baby wipes and formula for my brothers and sisters.""My family has always been near and dear to me, but obviously my Army family is just as close to me," said Diaz.Driven by her poverty-stricken upbringing, Diaz began volunteering at the St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Yonkers, N.Y. with her siblings and her mother, Alice DePalma. Since then Diaz says she has annually participated in the "AIDS Walk New York" fundraiser and is planning to launch an anti-bully awareness campaign within the local community.Diaz also encourages her Soldiers to follow her lead as the volunteer service coordinator of the 47th CSH. The unit has organized and participated in coat drives, food drives and park cleanups within the past year."This was an awesome way to teach our soldiers about selfless service and service to our community," said Diaz, "My volunteers really embraced this opportunity."
One of these volunteers was Specialist Corey Seay. The East Hartford, Conn. native jumped at the opportunity as his family was directly affected by cancer. His grandmother passed away from lung and colon cancer, and his mother has battled cervical cancer in the past."My participation was inspired by my family members and the chance to volunteer for a cause," said Seay, who also acted as the treasurer for the charity event."It was great seeing all the people that came out to support the cause, and it's also a reflection of Sgt. 1st Class Diaz's hard work that brought us all together," Seay said.Diaz was able to coordinate a successful charity event for a good cause with the help of her unit, two sisters Marguerite and Ashley, the donated services of the United Service Organization mobile canteen and local barbers."You never know whose life has been affected by cancer" said Diaz, "To come together for such a good cause shows that the Army really is a family.""This will be a part of the legacy that I leave them with and they will be able to teach their soldiers about giving back."