Houston Dynamo defender Craig Waibel doesn’t take himself too seriously. Waibel has a lengthy series of Chuck Norris-style jokes that light up internet message boards with classics like ‘Craig Waibel's calendar goes straight from March 31 to April 2’, ‘No one fools Craig Waibel,’ or his personal favorite, ‘Mr. T pities himself when he’s around Craig Waibel.’ He has created a cult-like following in Houston, and it’s this following that has helped Waibel push a local movement that is quickly gaining steam.
Fans have created a series of T-shirts featuring the phrase “Bald is Beautiful,” a nod to the bald Dynamo defender. What started as a simple joke, led to an event that raised thousands of dollars for cancer research. Waibel’s Warriors, Craig’s fan club, hosted the ‘Bald is Beautiful’ fundraiser, in which fans, friends and family pledged funds for Waibel’s Warriors, Dynamo players, and local supporters alike to shave their heads for the cause.
In 2009, more than 50 people participated and raised approximately $40,000 in the process. This season, Waibel challenged himself and the rest of Houston to take it one step further, setting the financial goal of $75,000. The event inspired more than 70 people to break out their Bic razors and helped Waibel to raise $50,000. Supporters also had an opportunity to sign-up to be part of a local bone marrow drive registry. Just shy of his financial target, Waibel has made it clear he will not give up.
“I set a goal of $75,000 and we hit $50,000,” Waibel said. “I will hold another event this year, one (event) at a time until I hit that goal. I will not give up on that.”
Waibel has always been passionate about giving back. In addition to fundraising, he regularly spends time volunteering with patients at Texas Children’s Hospital, where he has formed close relationships with many children and families at the hospital. One young patient named Nick Doize, who was battling Leukemia, made quite an impression on Waibel during their first encounter.
“I’ll never forget it,” said Waibel. “Stuart Holden and I went to visit him. He’s a huge soccer fan. We walked into his room and he was playing the FIFA video game. The first thing he said to me was ‘I know you…you’re terrible at this game.’ From there on out, I always liked the kid.”
A portion of the proceeds raised from Waibel’s Warriors were distributed to Nick’s Team, a local non-profit organization that raises awareness for pediatric cancer. The organization’s mission is simple: to organize support from the youth sports community to fight for a cure to the tragic illness that sidelines too many youth athletes. Nick’s Team is affiliated with the Curing Children’s Cancer Fund and the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, a world-renowned pediatric cancer center and hematology treatment center located at the Texas Medical Center.
Waibel has called upon his Dynamo teammates to also set an example. Mike Chabala, Bobby Boswell and many others supported ‘Bald is Beautiful’ and participated in the head shaving event.
Waibel has always been a leader in the Dynamo dressing room. Many of the Dynamo players have followed his lead by supporting his efforts or creating their own charitable initiatives. Their charitable efforts have bonded the players as a team.
“As professional athletes and as entertainers, part of our job is to give back to our community,” explained Waibel. “It’s our responsibility. We literally have jobs because people come out and pay to see us. I feel very strongly about giving back.”
Waibel credits “good old-fashioned family values” for his involvement in the community. He recalls that as a high school student his mother had him work in the public park planting flowers. It was that early community service work that instilled these values in Waibel.
“I would much rather be remembered for things I’ve done off the field, as opposed to a soccer player, that’s for sure,” said Waibel. As for his unique fan base in Houston, Waibel doesn’t get a big (bald) head about it.
“If you have ever seen a TV show that’s just good enough to watch and just bad enough to never go away…I’m kind of like that,” said Waibel. “I’ve created a weird cult following that’s pretty cool.”
‘Some people wear Superman pajamas, Superman wears Craig Waibel pajamas.’