OSWEGO, NY – Black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor; none of that matters. 175,000. That’s what matters. That is the number of children each year who are diagnosed with some form of cancer.
Dozens of volunteers put on the 11th annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser Sunday at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center.
The 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.
“It takes an awful lot of volunteers to put on an event like this,” said long-time volunteer John Sheffield, who also served as the MC.
He recognized all the volunteers who organize the event, the barbers who donate their talents, all the local businesses and others who donated to the huge auction and the shavees.
Caitlin Weinell was the first person to be shaved this year.
The SUNY Oswego junior said she raised $1,335 to benefit St. Baldrick’s. She’s a first-time shavee.
“I did it just because a few years ago my sister did it, she did it in Syracuse, and I thought it was such a creative idea to raise money and awareness for helping fight childhood cancer,” she explained.
From a full head of hair to bald in a matter of minutes “feels lighter!” she quipped, adding, “It feels wonderful, really wonderful. It’s very good to see how generous people are. It’s very inspiring.”
She said she hopes her actions motivate others to help St. Baldrick’s.
“Your hair’ll grow back after a while. But these kids are living with cancer every day,” she said.
“We’re a bit behind last year’s pace with the number of shavees registered at this point.”,” said volunteer event coordinator Dan Witmer, who is also the community service coordinator for the Oswego State Athletic Department. “We have around 100 shavees signed up right now. It would be nice to get a few more.”
The numbers were also down in 2016 for various reasons.
“But, we still managed to raise $72,800 with 164 shavees,” Witmer said.
Despite the fewer shavees, their verve was evident as the event was closing in on $40,000 by mid-afternoon.
They were looking to raise more than $70,000 again this year, Witmer said.
“We had about 15 walk-ins, so the shavee total looks like 110,” he said. “The website shows $37K+, so we’re hoping we’ll end up with around $50,000. We also had 46 volunteers register, and 18 fundraising teams. We might be down slightly from previous years. But every little bit matters. There are donations still coming in, checks to be counted. These figures do not reflect any money handed in today and all participants can continue to raise money. So, these are very temporary totals. We probably won’t know the final figure for a week or so.”
In its first 10 years, the Oswego event has raised more than $530,000.
According to the website, this year’s top 3 individual fundraisers are:
1. Mary Ann Knopp Foley ($1,925)
2. Hunter Hourigan ($1,607)
3. Chris Soper ($1,580)
…and the top 3 teams are:
1. Team Sadie ($5,613)
2. Oswego State men’s lacrosse ($3,980)
3. Bearded Brethren ($3,969)
13-year-old Josh Elia became a shavee several years ago and hasn’t stopped.
“It feels cold. It feels very cold,” he told Oswego County Today. “But it’s for a very good cause.”
He said he’s proud to have fought against childhood cancer since he was 8 years old. This year, he raised $1,020.
“It’s a very serious disease,” he said. “More people should come out and help. I want to try to get more people, like my classmates, to take part next year.”
“I’m not used to this yet,” a newly bald Meghan Parras said with a smile.
“You look beautiful,” her mother, Tammy, said, adding that Meghan really looks like her (twin) bother, Shawn, now more than ever.
“I wanted to do this for all my family members who passed away cancer,” the young lady said.
She also had her had shaved in memory of her elementary school friend, Julian Ross, a victim of childhood cancer.
Her older brother is deployed overseas and couldn’t be with her Sunday. She’d like to follow in his footsteps and become a Marine one day, she said. Shawn’s hair is now longer than hers, she noted.
Meghan’s mother cried with pride as she watched her have her hair buzzed off.
“I’m so proud of her,” she said, wiping away some tears as Meghan’s long ponytail was cut off. “She was bald until she was three.”
All the while, Meghan sat in the barber chair and smiled.
To make a donation or learn more about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, go to www.stbaldricks.org