Fifth annual CH St. Baldrick's event raises more than $105,000
The Cleveland Heights Community Center was "buzzing" on Sunday, March 6, as 180 men, women, boys and girls shaved their heads to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The fifth annual St. Baldrick’s event was held in honor of Heights youngsters Austin Gallagher, a 9-year-old two-time cancer survivor (and six-time shavee), and Garrett Gulden, a Heights High freshman currently undergoing maintenance treatment for leukemia; and in memory of Rebecca Alison Meyer, who died on her sixth birthday, in 2014.
Twelve teams of children, parents and teachers from local schools participated in the event, and raised more than $105,000. The afternoon was filled with a range of emotions, from the excitement of children, to the sadness of loved ones, to an overwhelming sense of hope.
Event organizer Krissy Gallagher said that the reason her son Austin is alive today is because of research that someone funded 20 years ago. Austin lost his entire right kidney and half of his left kidney to survive a bilateral Wilms tumor. He currently is cancer-free, but will one day need a kidney transplant. “Let’s do this for the next child diagnosed,” Gallagher urged Sunday’s attendees. “Let’s harness the courage and generosity of these young people to change the future of childhood cancer.”
Highlights of the day included the shaving of four girls from Fairfax Elementary School: Olive Chicotel and Ruth McFarland, both 7 years old, and friends of Meyer; and fourth-graders Sara Schubert, the event’s top fundraiser, and Lilah Beukemann. Joining them was parent Lauren Smith and school counselor Melinda Stoiciou, who also braved the shave, along with more than 25 boys, two male teachers and another four girls and moms who cut and donated at least six inches of hair. Team Fairfax raised an impressive $36,000.
Chicotel’s mother, Christie Yonkers, said, ”This is something my whole family will remember for the rest of our lives. Olive is on cloud nine, [big sister] Lola is beaming with pride and admiration, and my heart is so full it might burst.”
Teams from Roxboro Elementary and Roxboro Middle schools, along with several students from Canterbury Elementary School and Heights High, also joined in on the shaving, as did 26 Gesu School students and several teams from Shaker Heights schools.
“I’m continually amazed at how the community has embraced this, and am humbled and honored by how enthusiastically people give of themselves for the benefit of those they don't even know,” said Gallagher, comparing this year's event to Cleveland Heights’s first St. Baldrick's event, in 2012, which raised $37,000 by shaving 45 heads.
Marcia Dawson, whose sons Aaron and Gabe Mallamad were among the shavees, said, “There is no better feeling than coming together with your community to do something so big for such an important cause.”
Barbers from Quintana’s Barber & Dream Spa; Shawn Paul Salon; Abstract, A Hair Salon; and Eddy’s Barbershop volunteered the entire Sunday afternoon, and several commented on how extremely polite the participants were. "Every kid who got in my chair thanked me afterward," said Cindy Jahn of Abstract.
The money raised from this event flows through Rebecca Meyer’s St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund, which awards research grants right here in Cleveland at University Hospital's Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic. Meyer's parents, Kat and Eric Meyer, are "beyond grateful" that the money goes to their daughter's Hero Fund. "To know that Rebecca's legacy could one day help other children be free of cancer brings some small measure of comfort."
Donations will be accepted through the end of June. To make a donation, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/clevelandheights.
Mark Gallagher is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and the father of two sons who attend Roxboro Middle and Fairfax Elementary schools. As an eight-time St. Baldrick's shavee, he is a Knight of the Bald Table.