Locks fall during St. Baldrick’s event

Fifth grader Will Somma from Bear Tavern Elementary School in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District gets his head shaved by fifth grade teacher Christina Virtucio during the annual St. Baldrick's Foundation event held at Amalfi's restaurant in Lawrence Township on March 11. PHOTO BY LEA KAHN/STAFF

Lawrence Township St. Baldrick’s Foundation event raises $136,000, places sixth in the United States for money raised this year

When the last lock of hair fell to the floor at Amalfi’s restaurant, the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser had generated more than $136,000 in pledges toward funding for childhood cancer research.

Adults and children alike hopped up on stools to have their heads shaved by barbers and beauticians at the March 11 fundraiser at the Lawrence Township restaurant. It was the first in-person event in three years. It was held virtually from 2020 to 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteers – “shavees” in St. Baldrick’s speak – seek pledges from supporters for childhood cancer research in exchange for shaving their heads. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser is timed to occur near St. Patrick’s Day.

The goal was to raise $75,000, but the shavees – both individuals and teams – easily surpassed the goal and raised more than $136,000. The Lawrence Township event placed sixth in the United States for money raised this year, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Nearly 160 individuals signed up for the head-shaving event, along with 13 teams that included five Lawrence Township public schools and one elementary school in Hopewell Township.

For many of the shavees, it was personal. Some lost friends or family members to cancer, but others stepped up because a young family member had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Chloe Hogan, who is 9 years old, said she took part in the fundraiser because her grandfather and her godfather both died of cancer. Chloe raised $3,946 in pledges. Her goal was $3,000.

Chloe and 45 of her schoolmates at the Bear Tavern Elementary School in Hopewell Township shaved their heads at a special assembly March 10. She is the first girl at the elementary school to be a shavee, Principal Christopher Turnbull said.

The Bear Tavern Elementary School team raised $29,283 in pledges, which is the most pledges promised among the 13 teams that signed up for the Lawrenceville 2023 event, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Chloe said she had watched her schoolmates take part in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser year after year, and finally felt brave enough to sign up for it herself.

“I want to help children so they don’t die of cancer. No kid should have to go through what my Pop-Pop and my godfather went through. Kids with cancer need our support,” Chloe said after she climbed down from the stool.

For Phoebe Ryu, childhood cancer struck a little closer to home. The Lawrence High School graduate was devastated when she learned that her 6-year-old cousin, who lives in Seattle, Wash., was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood leukemia.

“I called my little cousin and she wanted me to do this. Gabby is in treatment. She has a whole treatment plan. She has two years to go,” said Ryu, who is a sophomore at Rutgers University. She was one of about 40 shavees at Amalfi’s restaurant.

“I thought it would be nice to do this. You get to raise money and I don’t have to worry. It is not sacrificing much to me personally (to be bald), but I am making a difference,” Ryu said.

Ryu raised $5,237, which exceeded her goal of $5,000.

Although Gabby was nearly 3,000 miles away in Seattle, she watched on a cellphone held by one of Ryu’s supporters as her older cousin’s head was being shaved.

Ryu said that while she was motivated to participate because of her cousin, this was not her first time as a shavee. She took part in the fundraiser as a sophomore at Lawrence High School in 2019.

“I did it with my friends because it would have a big impact on people,” she said.

Chloe and Ryu went the extra step and donated their long locks to Children With Hair Loss. The nonprofit group provides human hair replacement to children and young adults who have suffered medically-induced hair loss.

Meanwhile, Mayor John Ryan and Township Councilman Christopher Bobbitt praised the shavees at Amalfi’s restaurant.

“This is a very special event. Not only am I a cancer survivor, I am a three-time cancer survivor. Thank you to Mike and Melissa McCue, and to Amalfi’s. Keep it up,” Ryan said.

The McCues have spearheaded the event since its inception in 2008. The Lawrence Township event has raised more than $2 million since its first volunteer’s head was shaved 16 years ago.

Bobbitt said the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser demonstrates how the Lawrence Township community comes together to do good things for other people.

“I think especially in these times, it means a lot when a community can band together,” Bobbitt said.

According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a child is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes worldwide. In the United States, cancer kills one of every five children who have been diagnosed with the disease.

The most common childhood cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukemia, according to the foundation. Acute 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 Wilm’s tumor, which is a kidney cancer.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation and its signature head-shaving fundraiser grew out of a challenge issued by one successful businessman to his equally successful businessman 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 event was held around St. Patrick’s Day in 2000, giving rise to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Other upcoming local events include:

April 2 – 2-5 p.m. – Tigers Shave for the Brave at Carl A. Fields Center, 58 Prospect Ave., Princeton.

April 28 – 2-5 p.m. – Phi Alpha Delta – The Shave That Saves at The College of New Jersey Brower Student Center Room 225, 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing.

For more information, visit www.stbaldricks.org.

Exit mobile version