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Fundraisers Planned To Battle Childhood Cancers

OSWEGO – There are many children, locally and around the country, who likely wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for their saint – St. Baldick.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity, works to raise awareness and funding to support childhood cancer research and fellowship.

From left are: Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd; Oswego County Undersheriff Eugene Sullivan III; Seaman Carl Baker, U.S. Coast Guard; Deputy Zachary Eason, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Connor Loadwick; Sgt. Charles Atkinson, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Robert Ramsey, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office and president of the Sheriff’s Deputies’ Association; Lt. Brooks Hourigan, Oswego City Firefighter; Julian Ross; Kristi Thompson; Jeff McCrobie, Oswego City Fire Chief; John Geraci, Oswego City Firefighter (president of the firefighters' union); Wayne Hall, Oswego City Firefighter; Sgt. Robert Moskal, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Joseph Taylor, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Lt. Paul Conzone, Oswego City Firefighter.
From left are: Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd; Oswego County Undersheriff Eugene Sullivan III; Seaman Carl Baker, U.S. Coast Guard; Deputy Zachary Eason, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Connor Loadwick; Sgt. Charles Atkinson, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Robert Ramsey, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office and president of the Sheriff’s Deputies’ Association; Lt. Brooks Hourigan, Oswego City Firefighter; Julian Ross; Kristi Thompson; Jeff McCrobie, Oswego City Fire Chief; John Geraci, Oswego City Firefighter (president of the firefighters’ union); Wayne Hall, Oswego City Firefighter; Sgt. Robert Moskal, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Deputy Joseph Taylor, Oswego County Sheriff’s Office; Lt. Paul Conzone, Oswego City Firefighter. (Oswego County Photo)

All proceeds benefit the foundation, which uses around 90% of monies raised directly for research.

Locally, the foundation’s signature head-shaving events will be held at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26 E. First St., starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Recently, the Oswego County Legislature proclaimed March 27 as St. Baldrick’s Day in Oswego County. The SUNY Oswego athletic department, in concert with the County of Oswego and a group of dedicated local volunteer organizers, will sponsor the seventh annual fundraiser to support this worthy cause.

Last September, 11-year-old Makayla Walker was diagnosed with an abdominal desmoid tumor. It is so aggressive it is classified as a cancer.

She is currently undergoing a rigorous chemotherapy treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.

“She gets straight chemo for four days,” said her father, Shawn Walker.

The tumor is so large, doctors need to shrink it before attempting to remove it, he added.

“It was about the size of a football. The first two weeks, the chemo didn’t work at all,” he said.

“I feel good,” Makayla told Oswego County Today. “The doctors are going to find a cure. I’m really happy about all the support for me and the other kids.”

There will be a fundraiser for her on Saturday at the American Legion, on West Bridge Street.

“We’re doing this to help the family with medical costs and costs for hospital trips, etc. And, to let people know that our community does come together when something tragic happens to a family – especially to a child,” said Jennifer Losurdo one of the event organizers.

“I can’t believe all stuff they got for the fundraiser,” Shawn Walker said. “They’ve got tons of stuff! Between this and St. Baldrick’s there is a lot being done for kids fighting cancer.”

Many local groups have taken up St. Baldrick’s cause and more than 150 men, women and children from all walks of life have volunteered to shave their heads to raise money for the foundation on Wednesday.

They include the Oswego Firefighters’ Association, the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, the Oswego City Police Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol and more than 20 other groups from the greater Oswego County area.

Last year, their efforts brought in more than $72,000.

Dave Turner (the county’s director of Community Development, Tourism and Planning) is one of the volunteers spearheading this Wednesday’s St. Baldrick’s fundraiser at the Conference Center, East First Street.

“When people become familiar with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, it’s hard not to get involved. Last year they put a challenge out to the deputies and the firefighters, Minor Hockey Association and other community groups around the greater Oswego area. They responded with more enthusiasm than we anticipated,” he told legislators at this month’s meeting. “Teams, many comprised of children who have been afflicted with this terrible disease, five or six of them raised more that $10,000 on their own.”

“Last year, we had two kids who were college students; they heard about it (being held at the Campus Center). They came down and asked how they could participate and we gave them a brief explanation. They went upstairs in the student union to an ATM. Each took out $100 out of their own bank account, came down and had their heads shaved, spur of the moment,” he continued.

“You might remember how strikingly handsome the sheriff was last year after getting his hair cut.  He showed up just to support his guys, and within minutes there was an impromptu auction going on. And, much to his wife’s dismay, they auctioned off his hair and, in a matter of 10 minutes, raised $800 just because he agreed to do that. It is infectious,” Turner said.

When you hear the stories and learn about kids in our own community, like Julian Ross, who is just one of at least a half a dozen that we know of, it’s easy to get involved with St. Baldrick’s, Turner said at the legislature meeting.

Julian was on hand for the proclamation. He was diagonised at an early age with cancer.

After going through several years of treatments that were standard and customary “and some that we even a little bit beyond that, his parents were told to basically ‘take him home and let nature take its course’ – the treatments weren’t working,” Turner said.

“His mom, Kristi, wouldn’t accept that. She looked all over the country to see what other choices she had. She found a trial program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) that was funded by St. Baldrick’s. It was an experimental program; they only let 100 people in. There was one spot left. Julian was able to get in,” he said. “After four months of treatments, after his last diagnosis, he’s disease free.”

Most money raised by organizations to fight cancer, goes to help adults, Turner noted.

“Very, very little goes to fight children’s cancers,” he said. “The nice thing about St. Baldrick’s is every thing that they raise goes to children’s research and support services. Only 2% goes toward administration, a small portion goes for supplies and fundraising and all the rest of it – around 90% – goes right to research,” he explained.

There will be more than 150 shavees (always room for more) and around 23 teams at Wednesday’s event.

Sheriff Reuel Todd cited the Oswego Fire Department, which held a fundraiser for Julian and his family and raised thousands of dollars.

Sheriff Reuel Todd presents Julian Ross with his badge and ID at the March meeting of the Oswego County Legislature.
Sheriff Reuel Todd presents Julian Ross with his badge and ID at the March meeting of the Oswego County Legislature.

“There was some friendly competition,” the sheriff said. “We thought Julian wanted to be a fireman. But we took him for a little ride in a police car, ran the lights and siren a little bit (we went on the Grey Road where there wasn’t too many people). And I think Julian now decided that he wants to be a policeman.”

He presented him with a badge and ID card as well as a hat, shirt and brass insignia for his collar.

“Police and firefighters, a lot of our days aren’t made up of the greatest scenes,” said John Geraci, president of the Oswego Firefighters’ Association. “But to be a part of this, working with the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department, we couldn’t be prouder. We are extremely grateful for all the good things that have happened. And we are looking forward to continued success.”

To volunteer to be a participant or to donate to the campaign, go to
http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/337/2013

For more information about the foundation, visit http://www.stbaldricks.org/