BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Dozens of people cut their facial hair or shaved their heads Sunday to raise money to support research into childhood cancer.
Pat Schrager organizes the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation event at the 84th Street Pub & Grille in Byron Township, south of Grand Rapids.
“We got involved because a friend of our daughter had leukemia at 5,” Schrager said.
She won her fight and is now 23.
“When we moved back to West Michigan, there wasn’t an event, so we started one,” he said.
The first local event was held in 2013, but the national St. Baldrick’s Foundation was created more than a decade earlier.
“So three guys got together … wanted to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer research. They wanted to raise $17,000 on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000,” Shrager explained.
They came up with the idea of auctioning off shaves. Volunteers agree to give up their hair and donors pay to sponsor each cut.
Steven Strauss was among the first to get his head shaved for the cause.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “It started shaving in bars like this in New York city, then we realized, though, the impact that it made.”
Since then, the organization has raised millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research.
Researchers from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids said they’re grateful for the money that allows them to look into new treatments and introduce them to patients.
“In 1978, childhood cancer was a death sentence,” Schrager said. “Today, four out of five are saved and hopefully that just continues to get better.”
The shaved heads also get people talking.
“That’s the great marketing edge of this thing. People are like, ‘What happened?’ And you talk about it and then they start thinking about doing it,” Strauss said.
Last year, the local St. Baldrick’s event raised almost $115,000. Organizers hoped to beat that this year and raise $120,000.