Great Falls residents have an opportunity to put their money where their zip code is. A few men and women in the community have agreed to publicly shave their heads in an attempt to raise $22,066 for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation.
The shavees are all participating in St. Baldricks, an annual charity that raises money for childhood cancer research. The event will take place on March 12th at The Old Brogue in Great Falls at 7 p.m.. Money is raised at the event itself and through on-line donations at www.StBaldricks.org. Great Falls shavees can be located on the web site and donations made in their name will help get the group to its goal.
Great Falls resident David Fox was moved and inspired by last year's event and vowed to participate this year. It was Fox who came up with the idea to match the influential Great Falls zip code to the amount of donations being raised. “We can let our zip code make a real difference. We are one of the few communities and zip codes that can make a difference,” Fox said.
The dedication of shavees to raising funds for pediatric cancer research underscores how personally the community has been touched by the illness. Popular local veterinarian Dr. William Goldsmith, who participated last year, and his wife Kathleen, lost their daughter Frances a few years ago to an inoperable brain tumor. “The thing to take out of it, is that if it can happen to her, if can happen to anyone,” said Goldsmith.
Cancer is the biggest disease killer of children in the United States. Forty-six children are diagnosed with cancer every day across the country. Despite advances in diagnosing childhood cancer and in treatment, cancer remains prevalent.
GOLDSMITH CONTINUES to organize the event but not as a memorial to his daughter. He participates to find a cure so that other children, other families don’t have to face cancer like his has.
“We’re not doing it for us anymore. It’s nice that Frances is remembered. That is heartwarming to us and it is well received. But it’s not so much a memorial to her as it is doing it so other parents don’t have to go through it. Anyone who is a parent or a grandparent has a stake in this,” said Goldsmith.
Fox has taken his animals to Great Falls Animal Hospital, where Goldsmith practices, since moving to the area in 1982. Over the years the two have developed a personal relationship and Fox was deeply impacted by the death of Frances and is shaving a full head of hair in her honor.
“When you know someone who’s gone through it, you step up,” said Goldsmith of Fox’s participation.
“Unlike many children diagnosed with cancer who will lose their hair, mine will grow back. So, if a little off the top will help save the life of a child, it’s a small price to pay. Plus, I’ve never been bald and expect this to be a fun and certainly worthwhile experience,” said Fox.
Not only is the group of Great Falls shavees trying to match the zip code to donations, they are attempting to shatter their own record set last year and to move into the number three spot nationally.
“When you think about it, that’s a heck of a goal. There are places around the country that have many, many more people shaving their head than we do here in Great Falls,” said Fox. There are eight people signed up and raising funds for the charity.
The event is held at over 130 locations around the world and has raised more than $3 million since it was started in 2000, according to Paul Burke, the president of CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation.
This is the third year for St. Baldricks and “its a thing that is growing. It’s relatively easy to do too. People without much money can participate by being a shavee or by giving a dollar or so at the event,” said Goldsmith.
Last year a significant amount was raised at the event because, “people see what’s going on and can drop a dollar in a hat and get a sense that they’ve done something worthwhile,” said Goldsmith. Being witness to the shaving creates “a sense of electricity” and an urgency, according to Goldsmith.
WHILE ON-SITE DONATIONS are gladly accepted, participants are encouraging on-line donations which can be tracked and will help the group meet their $22,066 and number three in the nation goals. General information on the event and giving can be found at the St. Baldricks site. Fox’s site, under the St.Baldrick’s umbrella, is http://www.stbaldricks.org/ShaveePhoto.asp?SolNumber=15312392
The mission of the National Childhood Cancer Foundation is to raise funds and awareness to conquer childhood cancer. What happens after the group shaving, says Goldsmith, may be more magical than the event itself.
“We are working on a parallel goal. Getting money for research and getting information out there to people. There’s an undercurrent that because its children, this is whispered about in the corner and not talked about. So this is a two-edged thing. After people see you, and get past the question of are you okay, it serves the second purpose of the organization, the passing on of the message to as many people as possible,” said Goldsmith.
Over 94 percent of the donations raised during St. Baldrick’s go directly to research. The pool of money is used by 225 hospitals around the country searching for cures to various types of cancer.