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Pepperell St. Baldrick’s event about to set record


PEPPERELL — This month, local firefighters and other selfless individuals will come to the aid of cancer-stricken children when they participate in the fifth annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fund-raiser at the Park Street fire station (38 Park Street) on Wednesday, March 14 from 6 to 9 p.m.

This year promises to set a local record, according to local organizational guru and firefighter Vinnie Messina, who said 34 persons have signed up thus far to have their heads shaved smooth, and the local pledge total has reached a whopping $5,400 according to the organization’s Web site —

Over the past four years, 48 local heads have been shaved and more than $13,000 raised. Local interest seems to be growing almost as fast as the original event, much of it the result of hard work by Messina and other volunteers.

The idea to shave heads for donation dollars was conceived in 1999 by reinsurance industry executives John Bender and Enda McDonnell, after a challenge by golfing buddy Tim Kenney that the two should repay their good fortune by doing good for others. So they turned their company St. Patrick’s Day party into a fund-raiser for children with cancer.

Bender suggested that people would pay to see McDonnell bald, in solidarity with the bald heads of children undergoing cancer treatment, to which McDonnell replied “I will if you will!” and St. Baldrick’s was born.

The three hoped to raise “$17,000 on the 17th” by shaving the heads of 17 colleagues for $1,000 each. They generated instead more than $104,000 raised by just 20 shavees on March 17, 2000. The next year, 25 shavees in two locations raised $140,000. Last year, 5,000 shavees in 164 locations raised $3.53 million in just the American St. Baldrick’s celebration. Other events have been held in nine countries and there have been more than 55,000 donors.

Messina and Pepperell Fire Department’s Engine Company One are motivated by the memory of the late William Parenteau, who had his own head shaved a year before he was felled by a fast-moving cancer. Pepperell firefighters have individually raised significant pledge amounts in his name.

The evening has become one of friendly jesting and frivolity as barbers, such as Joe Lisio and Jon Patronick, clip and shave heads smooth while participants and onlookers partake of donated goodies or purchase T-shirts. This year, food will come from Dunkin’ Donuts and Chef on Wheels.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation this year has challenged everyone who wants to be a hero to children with cancer to participate in any of the 300-plus head-shaving fund-raisers across the country. The Park Street fire station in Pepperell is one of them.

St. Baldrick’s has raised more than $20 million for the cause. One hundred percent of donations are generated by shavees, organizers, volunteers, staff and board members. The foundation receives no government grants, does not telemarket, and is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) organization.

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