PHARR — Three insurance executives, Tim Kenny, John Bender and Enda McDonnell, were sitting in a New York City bar back in 1999 contemplating their good fortune. They went on to think how it would be right and proper to give back, help others, only . . . how?
After thinking a while, and since one of them had a niece recently diagnosed with cancer, John suggested shaving their heads — specifically Enda’s — since kids typically lose their hair during cancer treatment. Being a good sport, Enda agreed and they set their goals.
They would have the head shaving event at the industry’s St. Patrick’s Day party. They would recruit 17 colleagues to shave their heads and raise $17,000. On March 17, 2000, they held their first event and that day they raised over $104,000! They knew they were on to something good.
St. Baldrick’s Foundation is now a 501c3 tax deductible organization which makes grants to research institutions to find new cures for childhood cancer and to find treatments to ensure a better quality of life for patients and survivors.
Over the past eight years they have raised $50 million, over $17 million in 2008 alone. Of the 558 events held last year, 27,000 heads were shaved, ten percent of them were women. It has gone from the party in New York to events held around the world. Last year 110 grants were given for childhood cancer research totaling over $15 million in grants from across America to Canada, China and the United Kingdom.
Now, thanks to Wayne (a shavee) and Pat Chapman in Alamo Country Club, the Valley is having its first St. Baldrick’s events. Yes, people here in the Valley are signing up to shave off their locks - with all proceeds going to St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“We lost our son to lung cancer in 2005,” said Wayne. “Pat had colon cancer in 2006.”
“This is really personal,” said Pat. “Ever since we faced the cancer with our son we both wanted to do something to fight this thing. This fell in our laps and we said, ‘We’ve got to do this!’”
Two events are scheduled. The first is the final musical/comedy show of Bernie and Red, Wednesday, February 4 at 2:00 p.m. at Texas Trails RV Resort. Bernie and Red are donating all proceeds from the show to St. Baldrick’s. Touted as being the best of all shows, it will have highlights from all their shows.
The second event is the head shaving, again at Texas Trails from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 22. Plans are to honor children undergoing cancer treatment at the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer and Hematology Clinic.
As round dancers, the Chapman’s are thrilled their round dance cuers - Kay and Ski (a shavee) Kurczewski and Larry and Adrienne Nelson - and all their round dance friends are helping them in getting everything done for the events.
“Anyone who wants to shave their heads, collecting from those who will pay to see their locks shorn, can sign up on the website www.stbaldricks.org. Click on find events and enter Pharr, TX and it will bring up the Texas Trail event,” explained Wayne.
Participants find that shaving their head in solidarity with the 160,000 children who are diagnosed with cancer each year is a small sacrifice in comparison to what these children endure. The are committed to raise money to help find a cure for children with cancer now and in the future.
Wayne and Pat have a friend who won’t be around to attend the event but is still eager to participate so he has challenged his computer club to come up with $500 and he’ll shave his full head of hair and for $1,000, the mustache would go too.
Is Wayne nervous about having a shiny scalp?
“Not really,” he said. “I know I’m going to look different. I didn’t recognize my brother when I first saw him after he’d lost all his hair.”
It’s for the kids. What better reason is there?