OSWEGO, NY – When does a couple hundred equal several thousands?
When you’re talking about the people who volunteered to have their heads shaved in support of childhood cancer research.
Inside the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego on Sunday afternoon, nearly 200 people were loosing their hair as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation was gaining support.
The 10th annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser was held at the conference center for the fourth year. Previously, it had been held in the food court of SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center.
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 volunteer event organizer Dan Witmer.
He has been involved since the first event in 2007, when it was an Oswego State men’s lacrosse team-builder.
Now, it’s snowballed into a county-wide event including support from Oswego firefighters, schoolchildren, other Laker teams and families and friends of children battling cancer, he said, adding that the event couldn’t be possible without all the support from the community and many volunteers.
Julian Ross was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on August 4, 2011. He was just 6 years old. In early March 2015, nine-year-old Julian was put on Hospice care.
Julian was born on May 14, 2005. He was called home on August 8, 2015, at 3:30 a.m.
The family moved into a house in New Jersey; a New Jersey hospice took over Julian’s care last summer. He had been undergoing some treatments at Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia (CHOP).
“We have been asked to do St. Baldrick’s in Philadelphia,” Julian’s mom, Kristi Thompson Ross, told Oswego County Today. “But our heart is up here. We really appreciate everything that all the people here did for Julian over the years. We can’t thank everyone enough.”
Julian’s brother, Brayden Ross has taken over “Julian’s Army” and continues to help fight childhood cancer.
“I’m getting my hair cut today for my brother, Julian. He’s not alive. I’m doing this for Julian,” Brayden told Oswego County Today at the start of Sunday’s event. “I miss him.”
Shortly before 2 p.m., less than an hour into the fundraiser, it was announced that $49,000 had already been raised. More funds were coming in all afternoon from shavees, an auction, chances on a lottery board and more.
On one side of the center, there was a silent auction for a myriad items and raffles for dozens more. An autographed photo of Derek Jeter at the end of his final game had a bid of more than $200 and was still climbing.
Scores of volunteers, men and women, young and old, had their heads shaved to raise money to fund research for childhood cancer.
Katerina Leavens said she works at Oswego Hospital. She told her son, Ethan, about helping sick children “and he was anxious to get in and help.”
The second grader at Minetto Elementary School said he wasn’t volunteering for anyone one person in particular.
“I want to do this to fight cancer in kids,” he explained.
Connor Loadwick said he was having his head shaved in support of one of his friends who is suffering from cancer.
“I did this in seventh grade for him. And now he is healthy,” he said. “So now I’m doing it to help fight childhood cancer. This is my fourth time.”
“There are several children in our community who have fought and are fighting this terrible disease,” John Sheffield, a volunteer and the MC for the event, told Oswego County Today. “We are all fighting the same battle together. For me it is a great honor and privilege to be the MC at such a great event.”
Carson Colucci is an 8-time shavee and has raised thousands of dollars over the years for St. Baldrick’s.
Carson said he wants to help out other kids.
Witmer started organizing the event in 2007. 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.
For 2014, they raised $96,000 and upped that to $97,500 in 2015.
The number of shavees has slipped a bit this year, Witmer said.
For this year, they’re looking at raising $65,000 or more.
Over the course of the past 10 years, Oswego’s St. Baldrick’s events have raised $511,600+ with 1,288+ shavees. Those figures will increase in a couple of weeks when the results of Sunday’s event are tabulated.
St. Baldrick’s is an organization that raises millions of dollars each year for childhood cancer research. 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.
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. In May there will be a Julian’s Shamrock Kids’ Run and 5K. June will offer a St. Baldrick’s Golf Tournament at Tamarack Golf Course and a Father’s Day Breakfast at the Oswego Masons.
To make a donation or just learn more about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, go to www.stbaldricks.org
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