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Local volunteers go bald for St. Baldrick's



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John Beland encorages a group of kids as they shave their heads to support the 2012 St. Baldrick’s fundraiser at the Gilford Youth Center. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
June 06, 2012
Community volunteers came together once again for the ninth annual St. Baldrick's Foundation head-shaving fundraiser Saturday, June 2 at the Gilford Youth Center, with more than $323,000 raised for research into cures for childhood cancers.

Fromer Gilford Fire Chief John Beland, emceeing the event once again with microphone in hand, encouraged participants young and old, male and female as they shaved their heads to raise money to help fight childhood cancers.

According to Beland, in the past eight years, they have shaved 846 heads for St. Baldrick's foundation. Including volunteers, Beland said that brought their total to 961 participants who either gave their time or hair in support of the cause.

According to volunteer Melissa Mansfield, Franklin Savings Bank Vice President and event sponsor, they started the day with about $21,000 pledged and almost 100 people registered to shave their heads, about 40 of whom signed up the day before the fundraiser.

In past years, Mansfield said they raised more than $60,000, but were not expecting as high number this year because of the current economic climate.

"It's a great charity. Over 90 percent of the money goes straight into research and funding," said Mansfield, explaining that the foundation is able to give this return because of the low overhead costs and huge volunteer base.

Beland said that the funds raised at this event go towards funding for the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology department at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), headed by Dr. Jack van Hoff.

According to Mansfield, funds have helped support research and fund positions in the department.

The recently crowned Miss New Hampshire, Megan Lyman of Gilford, made a guest appearance to show her continued support for St. Baldrick's. Lyman said she at the first Gilford St. Baldrick's fundraiser, where she tap-danced to entertain guests.

"It's an awesome event. It gets better every year," said Lyman.

Lyman was honored the first year, as she was diagnosed with a rare form of soft-tissue caner at 12-years-old. After five removal surgeries, many trips to the Boston Children's Hospital and community support from events like St. Baldrick's fundraisers, she has now been cancer-free for six years. Now, to give back to those who helped her, Lyman wanted to show her support to St. Baldrick's, and also the Make a Wish Foundation by becoming a wish-granter, helping to organize everything to grant a sick child's wish.

This year, the St. Baldrick's fundraiser honored Bryce Hanover and Jeremey Oneil as they undergo treatment at DHMC, and Joe Sawyer, who is recovering from a brain tumor.

Along with the head-shaving fundraiser, event coordinators also hosted an American Red Cross blood drive, a DKMS Bone Marrow Registry sign-up station, Locks of Love donations and raffles and silent auction for anyone who wanted to contribute to the cause but didn't want to shave their head.

According to Beland, one of the most important successes of the event has been with the Bone Marrow registry. He estimated that they have helped register about 150 names to be potential bone marrow donners and a few have been called to actually donate.

The Gilford fundraiser all began when Beland saw an advertisement for the foundation on a Web site and checked it out for more information. He said the foundation stuck in the back of his mind, and not long after, he was on the phone with a representative setting up a Gilford charity fundraiser. He then pitched the idea to his fellow firefighters and members of the school district; everyone was on board.

About the St. Baldrick's Foundation

The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives. The Foundation funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government. St. Baldrick's funds are granted to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world and to younger professionals who will be the experts of tomorrow. Funds awarded also enable hundreds of local institutions to participate in national pediatric cancer clinical trials, a child's best hope for a cure. Since the Foundation's first grants as an independent charity in 2005, St. Baldrick's has funded more than $78 million in childhood cancer research. For more information about the St. Baldrick's Foundation, please call 1-888-899-BALD

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