There are a lot more bald teachers at Chestnut Hill Elementary School.
It’s not some sort of freak accident — four CHE teachers and the district’s science helping teacher had their heads shaved last Thursday in honor of St. Baldrick’s Day, an event in which people shave their heads in solidarity with children battling cancer. The event seeks to raise awareness for children’s cancers, as well as money to fund research for a cure.
This is the second year that CHE held a St. Baldrick’s Day event, according to sixth grade teacher Larry Laszlo, who organized it.
“I was inspired to do it last year after the death of Father [Joseph] Champlin,” Laszlo said. “But the idea really came from Todd Bourcy, our homebound teacher.”
Bourcy works with children who can’t attend school due to illness; often, these are children battling diseases like cancer. Bourcy had suggested the idea to Laszlo after working with Nate Perry Elementary sixth-grader Andrew Sleeth, who lost his battle with leukemia in 2007. Laszlo then implemented the idea at CHE.
“He really deserves the credit for the idea,” Laszlo said. “I just brought it here.”
While Bourcy, who now wears his head shaved all the time in honor of children with cancer, came up with the idea in memory of Andrew, this year’s event at CHE memorialized Bianca Bresadola, a second-grader who passed away in December after a six-month fight with osteosarcoma.
“It’s a little more somber this year,” CHE Principal Martha O’Leary said of the event. “For the younger kids, it’s just a whole lot of fun, but the older kids, as well as our second-graders and some of the first-graders, are a little quieter. They know what this is all about, and they really wanted to do something to remember Bianca.”
The school will also be remembering Bianca with basketball game April 6. Funds raised at the game will pay for a tree near the school’s entrance, where a plaque will be placed memorializing her.
In addition to helping the students remember a friend, the event also helps drive home the lessons they learn as part of the school’s character education program.
“We’re really trying to model for them the things that we’re teaching about giving back to the community,” Laszlo said. “It fits in really well with our character ed program, and it proves to the kids how fun it can be to do something good.”
This year’s shavees — Laszlo, occupational therapist Jonathan Reid, fifth grade teacher Dan Chilbert, fourth grade teacher Aaron Dennis and district science helping teacher Alex Becerra — had raised more than $3,000 for St. Baldrick’s at press time, more than tripling their fundraising goal.
The event had another important purpose — it inspired other schools to join in. Donlin Drive held its first annual St. Baldrick’s event on Thursday, as well.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.