When the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Lawrence Township went virtual last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers were unsure whether it would be as successful as in past years.
But despite the last-minute pivot, the 2020 event raised more than $145,000 from donors who pledged to contribute money to volunteers who allowed their heads to be shaved in exchange for donations.
Buoyed by the success of last year’s virtual head-shaving event and still plagued by COVID-19 concerns, event organizers plunged ahead to hold a virtual head-shaving March 13, raising more than $102,000 at the end of the day.
The donations are continuing to flow in, and more than $104,000 had been raised by March 25. The goal was $25,000, which was easily surpassed.
Nearly 100 volunteers – “shavees,” in St. Baldrick speak – took part in the event this year, which raises money for childhood cancer research. The event is timed to occur around St. Patrick’s Day in March.
Dr. Michael McCue, who owns a chiropractic practice with his wife, organized Lawrence’s first St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in 2008.
McCue had always felt badly for the young children who had lost their hair while they were undergoing chemotherapy treatment for childhood cancer.
So when McCue saw an advertisement for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, he was intrigued – especially by its signature fundraiser, which is a head-shaving event.
“I got involved with St. Baldrick’s because it was, and still is, a unique charity,” said McCue, who organizes the event with his wife, Melissa McCue.
“I loved the fact that it funded childhood cancer research, and that participants shave their heads in solidarity with the kids that lose their hair during treatments,” he said.
As the number of participants in Lawrence has grown over the years, “it has really made an impact in awareness to see everyone run around bald around the third week of March,” McCue said.
Lawrence Township’s event is one of the top fundraisers in the United States, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Lawrence shavees raised more than $145,000 in 2020, and more than $159,000 in 2019. Nearly $200,000 was raised in 2018.
According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a child is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes worldwide. In the United States, cancer kills 1 of every 5 children who have been diagnosed with it.
The most common childhood cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukemia, according to the foundation. Myeloid leukemia is not as common, but it is more difficult to treat.
Other childhood cancers include Ewing’s sarcoma, which is a bone tumor; retinoblastoma, which is a cancer of the retina of the eye; and Wilms tumor, which is a kidney cancer.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation and its head-shaving fundraiser grew out of a challenge issued by one successful businessman to his equally successful friends in 1999. He asked them what they would do to give back to the community.
The men agreed to shave their heads to raise money for children with cancer. The first head-shaving fundraiser was held around St. Patrick’s Day in 2000, giving rise to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.