ISRAEL – Saints know no earthly boundaries. Such is the case with St. Baldrick.
Recently, the Port City hosted the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser at the Lake Ontario Conference and Events Center.
The goal was to raise $75,000 to help fight childhood cancers. They have raised more than $61,000 so far but are waiting for the final tally.
A chunk of that total will arrive from thousands of miles away – the Czech Republic.
“Our website currently shows $60,401. But, we have checks and cash to count, an upcoming breakfast (May 5) and long-distance shavees in Delhi, NY, and Prague, Czech Republic who are still fundraising,” local volunteer event organizer Dan Witmer told Oswego County Today. “Projected total is somewhere between $70,000 – $80,000.”
Spearheading the East European fundraiser is Witmer’s son, Brian.
Brian Witmer works for a group promoting the sport of lacrosse around the world. Currently, he is living in Israel.
In July, he will fly to Prague to participate in a lacrosse tournament – and raise funds for St. Baldrick’s.
“I will be shaving my very, very long hair in public,” Brian Witmer said. “My father is running the whole show in Oswego (with the help of myriad volunteers). I organized my own St. Baldrick’s event back in 2013. It raised just over $10,000. I have not participated in anything about St. Baldrick’s since.”
“And, my hair hasn’t been cut since St. Baldrick’s 2013! It is very long hair,” he added.
He said he’d love to donate the actual hair (to something like Locks for Love).
“But I’m in the Czech Republic and don’t know about going to the airport; don’t know how officials might react to someone transporting human hair,” he said. “I’ll try to see if there is some group here that I could donate it to.”
So far, he and his brother have raised a little more than $1,000.
“He’s living out in Colorado and I’m living in Israel right now. We’re going to meet up in Prague, see a few guys and shave some heads,” he said. “We’ll have a good time and it’ll be fun.”
Oswego’s event saw 119 shavees go under the razor.
In Prague it’s going to be about five or six shavees.
“But I’m guessing once the beer starts flowing, it’ll be more like 10 or 12 people will shave. There are five or six guys on the docket right now,” he said.
They are going to Prague for the world box lacrosse tournament.
“This will be my fifth year. It’s really amazing. They really aren’t familiar with St. Baldrick’s. I don’t believe the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is in the Czech Republic, that I am aware of,” Brian said. “Everyone shaving their heads, must be those American guys!”
They have had special buttons created for the Prague event. A lacrosse player is featured on the buttons, with writing underneath. The buttons translate to “Ask me why I am without hair.”
In his travels, Brian said he tries to speak a little of the language of the country he’s in.
“But any time I try to speak a foreign language, they tell me ‘just speak English. We appreciate you trying but …” he quipped. “I learned a little Italian because where I was living before, there was no English. Here, I haven’t really learned (any of the language) because I don’t have to.”
“I’m involved with a group of individuals and travel all over. My role is to promote lacrosse. My dad can probably tell you better what I do than I can. I just get hired to go here, there and everywhere,” he added.
He described things as “pretty normal” in the area he’s at, adding that “it’s kind of hard to believe about 30 miles away is Syria.”
Meanwhile, in Denver:
“To make a 12-year-long story short, I’ve been learning from my father and taking those lessons with me. While attending SUNY Brockport, my brother used his position within the Student Government to allocate time and effort into hosting Brockport’s first St. Baldrick’s event. After he graduated, some of the staff he had worked with reached out about hosting a second annual event, to which I said heck yeah, and worked with student government to do our best,” Brian’s brother, Eric, said.
The events were pretty small relatively speaking, but the important part is spreading the message, and giving it your best effort because there’s work to be done to save the lives of kids who have been diagnosed with cancer, he added.
“The second year event was one of my favorites – I managed to win a dance contest (dancing with the stars but with athletes instead of celebrities) and bring notoriety to the Men’s Lacrosse Program and submit the winnings as a donation to St. Baldrick’s on behalf of the team,” Eric told Oswego County Today. “I also met my girlfriend of four years in the process, as she was a dancer paired with myself and another teammate.”
He stuck around for two years of grad school, and shaved one year by himself and donated online to his father’s event in Oswego.
“I was bartending at the time, and got to make good on an iconic St. Baldrick’s phrase, ‘Ask me why I’m bald.’ As patrons young and old came and went, they asked if I had lost a bet, which I could pleasantly answer with the St. Baldrick’s elevator speech and enlighten them as to the true reason my hair was missing,” he said.
“Tips were split on most of my shifts around the haircut, between my pocket, my coworkers and the St. Baldrick’s bucket we set up,” he added. “I happily offered discount drinks to anyone who donated or wanted to shave their head and join the fight.”
He is now in Denver, Colo., and last year couldn’t participate in the massive Denver event due to a trip to the Czech Republic to play in a world class box lacrosse tournament.
“This year I have the same conflict, but we came up with the solution to shave remotely in the Czech Republic. My brother – proud vagabond – hasn’t cut his hair in close to six years, and is joining, along with some friends from other necks of the world,” Eric explained. “We’re just out here spreading the cause the best way we know how. Be good people and do good on and off the floor/field.”