Feb 18, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Soon, there will be a lot of bald people walking around Cazenovia.
In just under one month, scores of people will gather in the Cazenovia American Legion to get their heads shaved to help raise money and awareness for childhood cancer research — and they will do it on honor of Nathaniel Henry, a 6-year-old student at Burton Street Elementary School who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in March 2012 and is currently undergoing treatment.
“We’re very proud that the community is stepping up and surrounding themselves with the little guy,” said James Henry, Nathaniel’s father. “It means a lot to him because he’s shaving his head for little kids too because he doesn’t want to see another kid go through what he did.”
The March 16 fundraiser will be done through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a national volunteer-driven charity that allows anyone to host or create a head-shaving event to raise money for the organization. Participants collect pledges from family and friends and agree to have their heads shaved as a visible, outward sign of the fight against all types of cancer. The money goes to St. Baldrick’s, but typically gets allocated to medical facilities local to an event.
There have been St. Baldrick’s events sponsored in towns and villages across Central New York, in Cicero, Liverpool, Marcellus and Skaneateles. One of the biggest regional St. Baldrick’s events of the year occurs every March at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub and Restaurant in downtown Syracuse.
There has never, however, been an event in Cazenovia; and local residents Sean and Erin Kate Kelly, who have participated in other area St. Baldrick’s events, decided it was time to bring the baldness to Caz.
“After last year [at Borio’s Restaurant in Liverpool], we were talking and Sean said, ‘We need to do one in Caz — something that is a really positive event for the community,’” Erin said.
The Kellys and the Henrys then got connected through mutual acquaintances, and, instead of participating in the Kitty Hoynes event this year as they planned, Nathaniel and his family will participate and get their heads shaved at the Cazenovia event as “Team Nathaniel,” James Henry said. Nathaniel also will be the “honored kid” of the Cazenovia event.
Nathaniel is “a very fun loving little boy who most of the time is always smiling. He likes to play with cars, trucks, transformers and he loves school,” his parents wrote on his St. Baldrick’s webpage.
“If you see him you would never believe [he has cancer],” Nathaniel’s father said. At first the cancer treatments were difficult for him, but now, “he’s the most vibrant little boy ever meet in your life.”
Once the Kellys decided to organize a St. Baldrick;’s event in Cazenovia, Sean, who is a chemistry teacher at Cazenovia High School, emailed the entire district and asked for everyone’s support. Part of the idea of the event is to bring the school district and the community together as well, Erin said.
Since the event was announced and posted on the St. Baldrick’s website in January, the response has been immense, Erin said. There are currently 52 people signed up to participate in the Cazenovia event, with more than $5,700 already raised as of press time. The fundraising goal of the Cazenovia event organizers was $5,000, but that amount was reached so quickly they have recently increased the goal to $10,000.
So many people have volunteered to help with the Cazenovia event, in fact, that there were not enough jobs to go around, so it was decided to do a bake sale during the event as well, Erin said. The sale is being organized by Cazenovia High School Vice Principal Susan Vickers, and all the proceeds will be donated to St. Baldrick’s. There also will be a dj playing music during the event.
Vickers is not the only district administrator or employee to participate in the event. Also getting shaved is high school Principal Eric Schnabl; teachers Christie Brenneck, Joshua Smith, John Dermody and Beth Ryan; and coach Brian Ellithorpe.
Also participating in the event — shaving her head as well as raising funds — is Cazenovia Board of Education Member Jan Woodworth. This will be her second time doing a St. Baldrick’s event, and she hopes to raise at least $1,000. She already has raised $320.
“Participation in a St. Baldrick’s event is an awesome experience. You are not only raising money to fund research to help find a cure for childhood cancers, but by shaving your head you are providing a visual to bring awareness to the need for more research money to be raised,” Woodworth said. “Many people don’t understand the purpose of the head shaving. I see it as an experience with three purposes: It is an act of solidarity with the children who have cancer and lose their hair; it is a way to identify with those children by at least experiencing a very small part of what they experience; and probably most importantly, it allows the conversation about childhood cancer and the need for research money to continue. For months after shaving, people question why my head was shaved — that is a great opening for a discussion.”
The biggest fundraiser at the moment is Cazenovia High School senior Amara Kattrein, who has so far raised $1,015 in just over one week.
“I lost both grandmothers in the past year to cancer. I feel it’s a great cause, anything I can do to help,” Kattrein said. “I was actually really surprised to reach $1,000 as fast as I did. I really appreciate it; I didn’t think it would be so quick. I have really long hair, it’s going to be interesting to see it all off.”
Kattrein’s hair, in fact, is 23 inches long —nearly down to her belly button. Originally, she told people that for every $50 she raised she would cut an inch of hair, and she figured she would end the day with her locks at about shoulder length. Everyone was just so “trigger-happy” with their donations, though, that she is now going to shave it completely bald.
“I’m very excited. I’m scared, but I think it’ll feel good when it happens. It will be weight off my shoulders, literally,” she said.
Kattrein, who is on a fundraising team for the event with her 15-year-old brother Hans, said her current fundraising goal for the St. Baldrick’s event is $1,500. “It would mean a lot to me and my family and make a lot of people happy I think [to reach that goal],” She said. “I just am happy everyone supporting me as much as they are. And bald really is beautiful. I can’t say that enough!”
Anyone interested in participating in or donating to the Cazenovia St. Baldrick’s event can go online to stbaldricks.org and either type in the location of the event or the name of a participant. People can then join in the event as a participant or donate to someone already signed up. People who raise at least $50 will receive a St. Baldrick’s T-shirt.
People who want to raise money but not shave their heads can do that as well, Erin Kelly said. Sign-ups also will be allowed the day of the event.
“We’ve been absolutely pleasantly surprised by the turnout so far; and the number of women shaving their heads for this is incredible,” Erin said. As for the number of participants they expect or hope to get on March 16, “The sky’s the limit,” she said. “We’ll accommodate whatever; we’ll extend the schedule if we have to.”
The Cazenovia St. Baldrick’s fundraising event is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 16, at the Cazenovia American Legion, 26 Chenango St.
For more information, email Sean Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit stbaldricks.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.