PEPPERELL -- About 35 people have volunteered to shave their heads in support of chidlhood cancer research next week.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation, partnered with local organizer Vinnie Messina, is hosting the fundraiser at the Park Street Fire Station on March 19 at 6 p.m. The event is the 12th of its kind in Pepperell.
"The premise of it is that people shave their heads in solidarity for kids with cancer, and we also ask people to pledge for them to do that," Messina said.
This year, Messina's goal is to raise $20,000. Over the past 11 years, the group has shaved 404 heads and brought in more than $166,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
The group puts those funds to use by donating more than $101 million to childhood cancer research since 2005.
As of March 11, this year's donations for the Pepperell fundraiser were over $11,500, with a week to go until the event.
For those interested in helping, but not willing to shave their heads, there will be a raffle featuring about 25 gift cards and gift baskets donated by area businesses. The space is being donated by the Fire Department.
"Even if you don't want to participate and get your head shaved, it's fun to come down and watch the barbers shave people up," Messina said.
Although there are more than 10 other St. Baldrick's in Massachusetts this year, when Messina's event started it was the only one in New England. The event attracts people from all over the surrounding area, with some traveling from up to an hour away to get their head shaved in Pepperell next week.
The first year, they had 17 people shaving their heads. At their peak in 2009, they had 62 participants.
Messina said he hopes to continue running the event in order to push more money into desperately needed research.
"Any time you see a child that's sick you want to help out. We're hoping they can find cures so that more children don't have to suffer," Messina said.
-- Chelsea Feinstein