Go bald! Hair will fall in honor of late RMC chaplain

2013-01-28T00:15:00Z Go bald! Hair will fall in honor of late RMC chaplainBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Last February, the Rev. Kristi Foster organized an event at Rocky Mountain College to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

What Foster, then Rocky’s chaplain, called a “hair-raising” event drew more than 60 people willing to get their hair cut or their heads shaved during halftime at a Battlin’ Bears basketball game. The idea was to raise money, awareness and support to fight cancer.

Participants raised money to be involved and some donated lengths of hair to a wig-making charity that provides wigs to cancer patients. The event brought in more than $7,000.

This year, the second annual hair-raising event will take place Feb. 21 in Rocky’s gym. But Foster, the college’s chaplain, won’t be there.

Foster, 39, lost her 10-month battle with cancer March 26, slightly more than a month after the inaugural fundraiser. So this year it will be named in her honor: “Foster Kristi’s Hope: The Second Annual Go Bald Event.”

It will take place during halftime of the women’s and men’s games against Montana State University Northern.

Karen Beiser, assistant professor of business administration and economics, is sure this is what her friend would have wanted.

“I think she would think this was her most important legacy even after she’s gone, that we’re continuing to battle for the next person,” Beiser said.

Robyn Cummings, associate professor of mathematics who also was a friend of Foster, is helping organize this year’s event. Cummings remembers Foster’s determination.

“She knew she wouldn’t survive, but she wanted to do this so maybe other people would not have to go through cancer,” she said.

Cummings and Foster both were members of the Rocky Walkers, the college’s Relay for Life team. To this day Cummings thinks about her friend.

“I wish she were here,” she said. “I miss her a lot, doing this.”

Cummings also knows others who have been touched by cancer, so helping fight the disease is even more personal.

“My husband and my father went through chemo and the pain of losing hair, and that people would be willing to (cut their hair) to support someone who has cancer means a lot,” she said.

Foster, who came to Rocky in 2008, served as campus chaplain for four years. Beiser remembers her as someone who welcomed everyone, whether or not they shared her beliefs.

“She had this real innate nature, this instinct to look at the good in people and bring that out,” Beiser said.

Foster also had quite a sense of humor, and she wasn’t afraid to be silly. Beiser remembered the time Foster persuaded her to join her in wearing long underwear for a student event that gathered clothing for the Montana Rescue Mission.

“She inspired me to do things I might have never done,” Beiser said. “She was so willing to put herself out there to participate with the students, but not only for them.”

Blaire Martin, director of Career Services at Rocky, also counted Foster as a friend. The two worked in the same building and on service projects together.

“She was great because she connected with so many different people on so many different levels,” Martin said. “And she just had this boundless energy that was infectious.”

At last year’s hair-raising event, Martin’s 10-year-old son got his head shaved. Martin, so proud of him for his participation, decided this year it was her turn.

She plans to let hair stylist Sam Whitmore, owner of the Euphoria Salon, cut off her long, dark-brown hair for the cause.

“Seeing the success of it last year, and with Kristi’s passing, I’ve been motivated by her passion for life and the grace and courage she had throughout her treatment,” Martin said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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