OSWEGO, NY – Inside the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego Sunday afternoon, nearly 300 people were loosing their hair as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation was gaining support.
The ninth annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser was held at the conference center. It’s the third year the venue hosted the event. 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 local coordinator Dan Witmer.
The goal again this year was $100,000, Witmer said.
“Last year, we fell about $4,000 short. We’re not going to say because we ‘only’ raised 95 or 96 thousand dollars that we weren’t a success,” he told Oswego County Today. “We have a great community. Look at how many people have turned out to help. Oswego’s St. Baldrick’s events have outdone those in places like Toronto and others.”
Shortly before 2 p.m., less than an hour into the fundraiser, it was announced that $70,000 had already been raised.
Scores of volunteers, men and women, young and old, 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 and the MC for the event. “Outside these walls, every day, we have our own battles. But today, here in this room, 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. This event is truly a light of giving, compassion, love, generosity and human kindness. And when we leave this event and we’re going back to whatever battles we have going on in our lives. I for one will take all the things I just mentioned out that door with me and I admire the courage of you all and the strength and heart of the kids in particular; you inspire me and you inspire all of us!”
Just prior to the start of the shaving, St. Baldrick organizers took time out to honor a special young man.
The seven-year shavee, Carson Colucci, has raised more than $10,000 over the years for St. Baldrick’s.
He was named a most honorable member of the Knights of the Bald Table.
When asked why they were going bald, 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!” Carson added. “It’s great to be able to help out other kids. I have raised over $10,000, but I want to do more.”
Alexandria DeSacia and her son, Nick, were among the very first shavees.
“We did this to help out all the children who are suffering from cancer. It’s a privilege to have hair,” she said, adding that she hopes other girls will follow her lead.
“This is a really good cause,” Nick added. “I wanted to do something to help and I talked her into doing it with me this year.”
Alexis Dunn was one of the youngest shavees.
“I wanted to do this to help my friends and family,” she explained. “My cousin did it last year. Maybe next year we will all do it together.”
“I did this because I wanted to help my grampa with his cancer. He’s doing pretty fine,” said Kaiden Gates.
Eric Gates has advanced final stage bone cancer (multiple myeloma). He is also fighting a few other nagging ailments.
In 2014, the event raised more than $95,000. Their efforts brought in more than $93,000 in 2013.
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.
“I think we have a real good shot at hitting our goal this year,” he added. “Starting this morning, we were about $7,000 ahead of last year’s pace.”
In 2012, they had about 150 shavees; that was twice the number they had in 2011. In 2014, the final number was closer to 200. Sunday’s event saw more that 200 shavees, several of them were women and young girls.
St. Baldrick’s is a relatively young 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.
For the ninth year, the Oswego event was sponsored by the SUNY Oswego athletic department.
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. The Oswego Sub Shop will donate a portion of its sales on Monday (April 13) from 5 – 9 p.m. to St. Baldrick’s. And, Friendly’s will do the same all day on April 18.
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