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Hundreds Go Bald To Fight Childhood Cancer

OSWEGO, NY – Outside the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego Sunday afternoon, two women were taking a break from the event inside. “One thing you can say about Oswego, we take care of our own,” one of them said.

Inside, more than 200 people were proving just how true that was.

Trish Levine presents a check to local coordinator Dan Witmer. Looking on are Al Levine, left, and John Sheffield, center.
Trish Levine presents a check to local coordinator Dan Witmer. Looking on are Al Levine, left, and John Sheffield, center.

The eighth annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser was held at the conference center for the second year. Previously, it had been held in the food court of SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center.

Scores of volunteer shavees had their heads shaved between 1-5 p.m. to raise money to fund research for childhood cancer.

On one side of the center there was a silent auction for a myriad items and raffles for dozens more.

“There are several children in our own community who have fought and are fighting this terrible disease,” said John Sheffield, a volunteer for the event. “In fact, there is one young community member who without the help of St. Baldrick’s would likely be dead today.”

Last year, their efforts brought in more than $93,000. This year, the goal was set at $100,000.

They were well on the way to the goal this afternoon. Shortly after noon the total stood at $63,714 and another $200 was added around 12:30.

“And this is all before we actually start shaving. People are coming in now with more money that they’ve raised,” said Dom Pike another veteran volunteer.

This is the fourth year Sean Madden has been a shavee. He had raised more than $3,445 by 1 p.m. Sunday.

“St. Baldrick’s is a great cause. It’s wonderful to see how many people have turned out to help,” he said.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives, according to local coordinator Dan Witmer.

“I have a good feeling we’re going to hit our goal,” he told Oswego County Today. “I’ve organized annual St. Baldrick’s events in Oswego since 2007.”

Dorine Haney, a member of the Oswego Firefighters' team, holds a sign naming one of the youngsters she was raising money in honor of. She also donated her hair to Wigs for Kids.
Dorine Haney, a member of the Oswego Firefighters’ team, holds a sign naming one of the youngsters she was raising money in honor of. She also donated her hair to Wigs for Kids.

That year, they raised about $11,000. From 2008-2010 there were gradual increases between $14,000 – $23,000.

“In 2011, we raised approximately $27,000. And, in 2012 we raised about $72,400; with more than $93,000 being raised in 2013,” he said.

In 2012 they had about 150 shavees; that was twice the number they had in 2011. Last year the final number was closer to 200.

“The numbers this year are really kind of similar to how we were last year,” he noted.

As the shaving got under way, St. Baldrick organizers took time out to honor a special group.

The seven-year shavees were: Dom Pike, Chris Pike, Eric Zerrahn, Pam Whaley and John Gooley.

The group (Sir Dominick the Helpful, Sir Christopher the Role Model, Sir Eric the Loyal, Lady Pamela of Joe’s and Sir John of Gooley) was cited as being seven-year volunteers for the foundation, “giving years of their love, time, talent and sometimes their hair to make life-saving research possible.”

They were named most honorable members of the Knights of the Bald Table. On hand to receive the honor in person were the Pikes and Zerrahn.

In the fall of 2013, Cooper Levine started his freshman year at Ithaca College.

During a visit, his mother thought he looked pale and asked him to visit the health center for blood tests. She thought he might be anemic.

Upon receipt of the results, he was immediately sent to Cayuga Hospital where his parents were informed that Cooper could have either lymphoma or leukemia. In an effort to stabilize his condition, Cooper was given blood transfusions that first day at the hospital.

The next day, Cooper was transferred to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital at SUNY Upstate, in Syracuse. On September 10, 2013, Cooper was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“His response was, ‘That sucks.’ I want to salute his head, his heart and his humor and the hearts of his parents, Trish and Al Levine,” Pike said.

Their family rallied together and had a huge benefit for her son, Trish said.

“It was very successful and we decided that out of that we would give back. We were going to start a foundation in our son’s name. Then we became familiar with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. So, we figured why recreate the wheel? We would give back to an existing foundation that does such wonderful things for research and pediatrics cancers,” she said.

On behalf of the Live, Life, Love group (for Cooper Levine), she presented the St. Baldrick’s Foundation with a $1,000 check.

Sunday’s event brought together hundreds of community members, some very young and some not quite as young.

Brandon Graham took part as a member of the Oswego Minor Hockey Association contingent.

He has been volunteering for the last five years because “It’s the right thing to do. It feels great to help others,” he said.

People ranging from sheriff’s deputies, minor hockey teams, elementary students, firefighters, college athletes and dozens of others all came out to have their heads shaved to raise money to fund research for childhood cancer.

When asked why they were doing this, the vast majority of shavees noted they were honoring a a friend, family member or other loved one who was stricken with cancer. And, “It’s the right thing to do!” they added.

Several Oswego Firefighters stepped up to help raise funds for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

This year, the Oswego Firefighters Association team raised more than $5,700, which brings their three-year total to nearly $25,000.

The team was led this year by Hunter Hourigan, son of team captain, Lieutenant Brooks Hourigan.  Hunter finished third among all individual participants, raising $1,716.

The Oswego Firefighters also finished third in the team competition, right behind “Team Sadie” and “Oswego Minor Hockey.”

While raising funds for St. Baldrick’s, participants also get their heads shaved as a sign of solidarity in the fight against childhood cancer.

John Geraci, president of the Oswego Firefighters Association said, “We love to get involved in local events like St. Baldrick’s, and look forward to raising even more money next year.”

The Oswego Fire Department is very active in the community, raising funds for various charities and sponsoring local youth sports teams in Oswego.  The OFD will be playing the Oswego Police Department in a wheelchair basketball fundraising event for Move Along, Inc. on April 26.

For more information about the Oswego Fire Department, call (315) 343-2161 or check out their facebook page “Oswego City Firefighters.”

Mary Beth Smith sat a few chairs away from her husband, Patrick “Scooter,” to have her long locks cut. She did so in his honor – as he is a recent cancer survivor.

“I’m a recent survivor,” he said. “I did this to help bring awareness and raise fund to help others fight cancer, especially the kids.”

St. Baldrick’s is a relatively young organization that raises millions of dollars each year for childhood cancer research.

“We’re proud to say that we raised more than $93,000 last year,” Witmer said. “The goal this year is $100,000.”

Once again, Julian Ross and family and a group of friends banded together as “Julian’s Army” to help raise funds.

Bradon Ross has his head shaved in support of his brother, Julian.
Bradon Ross has his head shaved in support of his brother, Julian.

Julian was diagnosed at an early age with cancer.

After seeing several doctors and specialists, his mother, Kristi, said she was told to “take him home and let nature take its course,” she said.

She didn’t accept that fate and search the country for other options. She found a trial program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; it was funded by St. Baldrick’s.

Julian got the final spot in the experimental program, she said.

“I’m feeling good,” he told Oswego County Today on Sunday.

However, he is still facing a tough battle.

“It’s been hard. He has to watch out for severe headaches, backaches  he has to take Tylenol and morphine combination  He’s doing chemo  four days on and four days off We just got back Friday from CHOP (Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia) His cancer has spread. They had to wait a bit to do the chemo and during that cycle is when his cancer started spreading. The therapies are extremely painful but he’s hanging in there – he’s a real fighter,” said his dad, Steve.

The idea to raise money for this cause by shaving heads began in 1999 with three colleagues: Tim Kenney, John Bender and Enda McDonnell.

In 2004, they launched the St. Baldrick’s Foundation with the priorities of spending as little as possible to raise money, while making sure that each dollar goes toward the best research possible.

In 2012, the foundation passed the $100 million mark in childhood cancer research grants.

Worldwide, more than 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, and it remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States.

With only 4 percent of all federal cancer research funding dedicated to pediatric cancer research, St. Baldrick’s Foundation grant funds are critical to continue the battle against this devastating disease.

For the eighth year, the Oswego event was sponsored by the SUNY Oswego athletic department.

Cancer sucks
Cancer sucks

In addition to signing up to be a shavee, individuals and organizations can help in other ways, too.

Anyone can still make a personal donation or support an individual that’s volunteered to be a shavee.

For information about how you can still donate, contact Witmer at 315-529- 5154 or [email protected]

More about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation

The foundation funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government.

St. Baldrick’s funds are granted to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world, and to younger professionals who will be the experts of tomorrow.

Funds awarded also enable hundreds of local institutions to participate in national pediatric cancer clinical trials, a child’s best hope for a cure.

For more information about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, call 1-800-899-BALD or visit stbaldricks.org

2 Comments

  1. For everyone who did this every year since its inception, I bless you for your deed!

    Hope your hair grows back full rich and exactly how you want it. For those who donated to the wigs program, I know there are many who praise you every time they put your hair ‘on.’

    God bless you all. And health to those who will improve and survive because of your offering and love.

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