OSWEGO, NY – The Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego was filled to capacity – and then some – on Wednesday night as close to 200 people went under the shears to raise money to fund research for childhood cancer.
The seventh annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser was held at the new location to provide more room for the “shavees” and their legion of fans. Previously, it had been held in the food court of SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center.
“I don’t think there is a place big enough in Oswego to host this event,” said Sean Madden as he surveyed the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. “St. Baldrick’s is a great cause. It’s amazing how many people have turned out to help.”
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.
This year, organizers set a goal of $75,000, according to local coordinator Dan Witmer.
It’s likely that the 2014 will be $100,000.
“Last year, we had 150 people registered to get their heads shaved. That was twice the number that we had in 2011,” Witmer told Oswego County Today. “By (Wednesday) afternoon we had more than 185 ‘shavees’ signed up. There have been quite a few that have just come in tonight and signed up.”
Eric Gates has advanced final stage bone cancer (multiple myeloma).
Last year, after getting his head shaved, he came over to volunteer Dom Pike and shook his hand.
“He told me ‘thank you,’ and that he probably wouldn’t see me next year,” Pike recalled. “But, he’s back again this year with his son and grandchildren.”
“This really means a lot to my dad,” Adam Gates said. “He will do whatever he can to help anyone, especially kids.”
Adam’s son, Kaiden, was among the very first teams to have their heads shaved. The youngster raised more than $140 for the cause all by himself.
The event brought together hundreds of community members, some very young and some not quite as young.
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.
“St. Baldrick’s is still a rather young organization that raises millions of dollars each year for childhood cancer research. We’re proud to say that we raised more than $70,000 last year,” Witmer said. “The goal this year was $75,000 and it looks like we’re going to blow right by that.”
Shortly before 7:30 p.m. it was announced that they had raised $72,000 – and that wasn’t counting the money people were still bringing in as well as funds raised through the auctions going on around the conference center.
One of the “celebrity shavees” was Bill Crist, Oswego Superintendent of Schools.
He admits he was a bit aprehensive at first. “But when you think about the kids, it’s an easy choice. St. Baldrick’s Foundation is doing a lot of good for the kids that really need help. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
His “Team Super” raised more than $4,200.
Julian Ross and family and a group of friends banded together as “Julian’s Army” to help raise funds.
Julian was diagnosed at an early age with cancer. Now thanks to a St. Baldrick’s funded program, he is disease free.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “There are a lot of people here tonight.”
“This place is completely packed,” agreed his mother, Kristi. “It will be interesting to see how much money that actually raise.”
Rebecca Stroh decided to come down and have her long locks shorn.
“I wanted to do this in honor of a friend of mine who is a cancer survior now for 14 years,” she said. “This is my first time. I raised $600.”
Kasia Gonciarz said she usually supports a friend of hers who volunteers to have her head shaved.
“This is my first time getting my head shaved. My friend started me out on the idea about four years ago and I wasn’t ready then. This year, she couldn’t do it. So I told her I would step in for her and do it myself,” she explained.
Ruby Tuesday, 146 E. 13th St. in Oswego will donate 20% of your purchase on March 28 to St. Baldrick’s. For more information, call 343-1234 or visit rubytuesday.com
Witmer was cited as being a seven-year volunteer for the foundation, “giving years of their love, time, talent and sometimes their hair to make life-saving research possible.”
He was named a most honorable member of the Knights of the Bald Table.
For information about how you can still donate, contact Witmer at 315-529- 5154 or [email protected]