Heights families host St. Baldrick's Day to fight childhood cancer

Father and son get into the spirit of St. Baldrick's Day

This Saint Patrick’s day, hundreds of Clevelanders will lose their hair. At least that’s what two Heights families hope. For the ninth consecutive year, Cathy Richer, her husband Peter, and sister in-law Cari Ross, are spearheading the Cleveland version of St.Baldrick’s Day, the annual head-shaving fundraiser benefiting childhood cancer research.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, founded in 2000, funds more childhood cancer research grants than any other private organization. In just one decade, the organization has shaved nearly 150,000 heads worldwide, earning in excess of $90.6 million. The Cleveland event is consistently in the foundation’s top ten percent of fundraisers.

Despite this success, childhood cancer research remains one of the least-supported areas of cancer research.

This year’s St. Baldrick’s Day celebration (named for the combination of bald and St. Patrick’s) will be held on March 17 at A. J. Rocco’s in downtown Cleveland, beginning at 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to go bald. Participants shave their heads to demonstrate their support for childhood cancer patients who often lose their own hair during treatment.

“We have shaved men, women, children, spouses and families. The youngest participant to date, was six and the oldest was well into his seventies,” said Richer. While a clean shave is certainly part of the fun, it’s not the only way to help, donations are always welcome.

The Richers and Ross held the first Cleveland St. Baldrick’s day in 2003. That year they shaved 25 heads and raised $47,000. Since then, they’ve shaved more than 700 heads and raised more than $1 million. This year, they’re planning to shave more than 150 heads and are hoping to raise $150,000. Both Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and Case Western Reserve University have benefited from these efforts as recipients of multiple St. Baldrick’s grant monies.

The Richers have a personal connection to childhood cancer. Their son battled and beat a particularly rare brain cancer as a toddler. All of his treatment took place at Rainbow. After their own experience, the Richers felt a responsibility to help fund world-class research and treatment for other families and children fighting childhood cancer.

For more information about St. Baldrick’s Day, visit www.St.Baldrick’s.org and look for the Cleveland / A. J. Rocco’s link.

Sarah Routh is a lifelong Cleveland Heights resident.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 1:17 PM, 03.01.2011