PEPPERELL — The waiting line at the Park Street fire station stretched halfway across the main engine bay as Pepperell’s seventh annual St. Baldrick’s fund-raiser began.
The local iteration of the worldwide, nonprofit, head-shaving fund-raiser for cancer seems to become larger each year. Under the eye of its local organizers — firefighter Vinnie Messina and his wife, Sandy — it has raised about $50,000 during the past six years.
While its Web site reported $12,500 had been pledged when last Wednesday’s event began, it showed $13,508. That total climbed to more than $19,000. Sixty two heads were shaved.
On one side of the engine bay was a table of food and coffee, donated by Dunkin’ Donuts, Donelan’s of Pepperell, Chef on Wheels and C&S Pizza.
Against the opposite wall, a table full of individually wrapped raffle items from Pepperell, Townsend and Nashua-area restaurants and stores, 26 in all (including The Bronze Bell, Hannaford’s of Townsend, Pepperell Family Pharmacy, Rite-Aid of Pepperell). Prizes ranged from gift certificates to a child-sized electric SUV donated by Coca Cola of Northern New England.
“We’re honoring Trent (Kelley, age 6, of Palmer Road) this year,” Messina said. “St. Baldrick’s allows an event to be held in honor of someone and Trent will be given a little medalion to wear around his neck. He and I recently visited the fire station.”
Trent was present, head resting on dad Jon’s shoulder. His mom, Rachel, and sister, Reagan, 5, were nearby. The family had donated a large green and white decorated cake.
“This is dedicated in Trent’s name. It’s a great thing,” Jon Kelley said.
Trent has C-cell lymphoma and has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments since June, and was an in-patient at the Jimmy Fund Ward at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for 40 days. Trent and his family have made 60 trips to Boston and Trent has 15 months of treatments left.
Trent was dedicating the head-shaving to his friend, Adrian, 6, another youngster with cancer.
Some of the first to be shaved came as a group of five from Townsend, first responders that included paramedic Chris Cotter, firefighter/EMT Jeff Cormier, firefighter Leon Niemiera, firefighter Keith Hanks, and firefighter (and first-timer) William Elliot. They brought with them pledges totaling $1,000.
“Chris did this last year and got us motivated,” Elliot said. “We do what we can.”
Nearby, seven Hudson, N.H., police officers waited their turn to bare their scalps to a line of four barbers that included beautician Debra Durno, Joe Lisio Jr. and Mark Laviolette of Patriot Barber Shop, and Talia Flanagan from Signature Style, who traveled from Canada for the event.
One awaiting the clippers was Hudson Officer Joe Hoebeke, who had sent e-mails throughout his department about the event. Another was Officer Shelley Megowen, who was donating her long hair to Locks of Love, then shaving off the rest for St. Baldrick’s. Officers Dan Dolan, Jim Styes, Kevin Pucillo, Kevin Riley and Ben Sargent (of Dunstable, whose wife is the Hudson dispatcher) joined them, having pledged nearly $5,000.
Two more newly shaved heads belonged to Daryl Royal and his son, Trevor, 8, of Milford, N.H.. Trevor decided to join his dad at the last minute. Daryl’s wife, Pamela was with them.
“We read about this in the Nashua Telegraph,” Royal said. “It’s our first time. It feels different, cold. I’ve never been without hair.”
Another first-timer was Jeremy Long, of Marblehead.
“This is my first time in this part of Massachusetts,” he said. “I found out about this on the St. Baldrick’s Web site and thought I’d check it out.”
Then there was second-timer John King, of Townsend, accompanied by his wife, Kim, and five children: Daniel, 8 and Benjamin (both boys undergoing their second head shavings), Rebecca, 14, Emma, 11 and Rachel, 9.
Littleton was well-represented by former Pepperell officer Ed Bussiere who had “talked it up,” resulting in appearances by officers Patrick O’Donoghue, Manny Gonzales, Brian Casey, John Jankos, Pablo Fernandez, Sgt. Robert Raffaleo, detectives Matt Pinard and Jeff Patterson, and firefighter Matt Monez.
Westford police officer Scott Hyder and dispatcher Andrew Sherman were discovered as they sat in the barber chairs. Equally quiet were Pepperell officers Stephen Mulkerin and Fabrizio Vestri. So was Nashoba Publishing photographer John Love.
C&S Pizza owner Bill Gikas was found waiting in line. Running his hand through his already thin hair, he laughingly said, “It’s a question whether any of it will grow back.”
Gladys Olson, of Hudson, N.H., was one of the very few women to shave their heads.
“This is very special to me, a memory of my sister and dad, my mother-in-law and father-in law, all cancer victims,” she said. “I always wanted to do it after going through town nine or 10 years ago.”