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Baring their heads to support the kids at St. Baldrick's

Michael Madore of Gilford gets his head shaved by Gail Miliken. Sarah Schmidt. (click for larger version)
June 03, 2009
LAKES REGION — With every purr of an electric shaver, another bald head was added to a new record for registered shavees at the annual St. Baldrick's event - at least 155, who managed to raise over $50,000 to fight childhood cancer.

The challenge - to sacrifice one's hair for pledges of money to go toward cancer research - is one that Lakes Region residents have expanded upon in recent years. By the numbers, at the end of the day, $53,000 had been raised, the DKMS Americas bone marrow registry had gotten 42 new people signed up, and more than a few inches of hair had been donated to Locks of Love.

The set goal for the event to raise was $35,000, a figure that was surpassed that morning as the event began. As more and more heads were bared to the breeze, that amount surged to $53,000, smashing the previous record of about $50,000 collected at the end of the festivities last year.

Each new figure was announced by emcee and Gilford Deputy Fire Chief John Beland - and immediately applauded and cheered.

"A lot of people in my life had passed away from cancer," said the newly-bald Julia Cassidy of Nashua, a member of the two-person Bald Eagles team. "Hair is just hair. We (Cassidy and her teammate Jaime) work at a Girl Scout Camp, where we say we teach girls to fly - so we became the bald eagles."

Cassidy found her new hairstyle very affecting.

"I can't stop touching it," she said. "I might keep it this way."

Shavees - those who gave up all or a portion of their hair - are increasingly joining teams of other shavees for support. Last week's Gilford event hosted 22 teams. The Brother Dave Builders team of Plymouth, a familiar fixture at the event with lime green team shirts and shaven heads, submitted with applause to the barbers' chairs.

The team to raise the most money was "It's Just Hair," whose ten members raised $3,650 for the effort. They were followed by the Tilton Veterinary Hospital and the Bald Eagles teams.

Others who pledged their locks made the experience a family effort. Mike Ware of Tilton Veterinary Hospital, his son Doug, and his grandson Keagan, age two, all joined in the effort, each getting their heads shaved. Mike and Doug sat calmly, while Keagan needed a bit of reassurance to sit still. As a nod to their team, the TVH team of Steve Schor and Mike and Doug Ware asked the volunteer shavers to shave the initials of their team into the backs of their heads (later shaved completely off).

Melissa Cote of Grafton, on the Austin's Angels team, also took the opportunity to make it a family affair. Both she, her husband, and seven-year-old son, Alex, had their heads shaved. Her daughter Samantha, 10, cut off a portion of her hair to donate to Locks of Love.

"My hair wasn't very long anyway," said Cote. "I love it, it feels great. The sun feels so nice on my head."

Cote was there to shave and support her nephew, Austin Cote, who is undergoing treatment for childhood cancer. Austin, along with Laconia youngster Christopher H, are the two children that the event honors. Austin came to the event himself to get his head shaved.

Corey Gately of Gilford and her family decided to go bald together. Gately, her 2-year-old son, Andrew, husband John, brother Richard, and father Peter, all joined the It's Just Hair team, shaving their heads and becoming the team to earn the most in donations.

One member of It's Just Hair, Joanne Chase, more than doubled her goal of $1,000, raising $2,150, becoming the second-place individual fundraiser. Cote stayed with her for support as her hair was shorn, but Chase smiled and laughed her way through it. Beside her sat Jill Lessard, the top fundraiser with $3,700 raised "as of this morning." Lessard, a cancer survivor, was credited by Beland as a driving force behind getting the word out about the event.

"She's a hero for shaving her head, but she's also very helpful about raising awareness," said Beland. "She's responsible for the fact that for the first time, this event is being televised."

The St. Baldrick's event was recorded to be shown on the local access channel LRPA TV.

As long as he was shaving it off, Tim Townsend of Laconia saw no reason why he shouldn't make the most of his hair while he still had it, dyeing it green to raise awareness and to help speed his donation gathering.

"I was a little short of my goal for fundraising," said Townsend. "I dyed it like this for the last three days, and I met my goal - then beat it by $120."

Others at the event donated in ways that they could, manning the silent in the back of the room, taking pictures, or sweeping up hair. Alicia Campbell, 6, of Center Harbor, circulated among the shaving platforms, sweeping up bits of hair under the watch of her mother, Patricia. Alicia's father and brother, Ian, had just been shaved that morning. Ian provided the drum rolls for the event, preceding every new fundraising total that Beland announced.

"These guys are truly heroes to kids with cancer," said Beland.

Donations to the Gilford St. Baldrick's event can still be made online. Look for the Gilford site on the St. Baldrick's Web site at www.stbaldricks.org.

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