Going bald for a cause
Fifty brave souls went under the buzzers on Sunday, March 11 at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, shaving their heads to raise money for St. Baldrick’s and childhood cancer research. The event was organized by Cleveland Heights resident Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, whose son Austin is a two-time cancer survivor and one of five 2012 Ambassador Kids for the national St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
As an Ambassador, Austin represents the more than 160,000 children who are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year. One in five children in the United States diagnosed with the disease will not survive.
Children as young as three years old shaved their heads, and participants included eight students from St. Paul’s Cooperative Preschool, where Austin attends preK, and eleven from Fairfax Elementary, where his brother Braedan is a second grader. Three students from Roxboro Elementary, four from Roxboro Middle and two from Heights High joined other kids and grown-ups from University Heights, Shaker Heights and surrounding communities at the event, which drew hundreds of supporters and raised more than $32,000.
“St. Baldrick’s Foundation focuses on finding cures for childhood cancers,” said Gallagher, whose family has participated in St. Baldrick’s events for the past five years. The foundation gives more money to pediatric cancer research than any organization except the United States government, and has raised $18 million so far this year.
Highlights of the day included the shaving of Fairfax’s fourth-grade teacher, Kristi Glasier, a longtime friend of the Gallaghers, who raised more than $3,000. Four-year-old Leah Friess registered at the last minute, inspired by her three bald big brothers. A mother-daughter team from South Euclid closed out the event, with Austin wielding the electric buzzer, giving the stylists from Lee Road’s Cut Hair Studio a much-needed break.
Parents expressed how special it was for their children to have an opportunity to positively impact their world. After his shaving as part of Team Fairfax, eight-year-old Eamonn Connell asked his mother, “If we can help kids with cancer, can’t we help people who don’t have homes too?” His mother Karen was thankful that participating in this event had helped open up his heart and mind. “Empathy has emerged!” she declared.
Andy Bell, a seventh grader at Roxboro Middle School, admitted he was nervous walking into school on Monday, but said, “Kids were talking about what a cool thing I did. Being bald gave me a chance to talk about cancer and raise funds. It's something I hope to do again, and I hope my friends will join me."
It was a special day for Krissy Gallagher, who describes childhood cancer as “filled with darkness. There is sadness and fear and worry. And then you have a day like today, when so many people give so much of themselves, when they literally give a piece of themselves … and it brings light to an otherwise dark world.”
Mark Gallagher, a Cleveland Heights resident, shaved his head for the fifth time at A.J. Rocco’s on St. Patrick’s Day. This year his sons Braedan (8) and Austin (5) wielded the buzzers. When he’s not helping his wife organize events, he’s a criminal defense attorney and the legal director at Towards Employment.