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55 locals shave their locks to support St. Baldricks cancer research

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St. Baldrick’s Foundation hosted a their fifth annual head shaving and auction event to support funding for childhood cancer research in Sergeantsville, New Jersey on Sunday Sept. 24.

Fifty-five people registered to shave, including New Jersey Senator Kip Bateman and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli.

During the shaving organizers also held an auction of donated local goods and services. One man bid $1,000 for eight hours of labor from a local contractor.

All money raised at the event went to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a non-profit group that provides funding for childhood cancer research. 

According to St. Baldrick’s website, the organization has “funded over $230 million in childhood cancer research grants, more than any other organization except the U.S. government. Many of these grants fund research in Pennsylvania, including research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and other local institutions. These grants help give more kids access to clinical trials, train the next generation of pediatric oncologists, and fund specific childhood cancer research projects.”

Each shaving event is a fund raiser where participants set up fund raising pages and get people to donate if the person shaves their head to honor cancer patients who lose their hair during chemotherapy. After rounding up as much money as possible, groups join for a heads having party.

Scoutmaster of troop 69, Mark Harban, says, “It is absolutely making a significant difference in the fight against childhood cancer.”

The Sergeantsville event was started 5 years ago when local Linda Swackhamer lost her 8 year old granddaughter, Rayanna Marrerro, to Myelodysplastic Syndrome, M.D.S

“Worst than the day you find out your child has cancer, is the day you find out there is nothing you can do for them.” Swackhamer told The VOICE.

Not long after Rayanna passed, Linda was in Florida when she stepped into a restaurant where they were holding a similar fund raiser for childhood cancer research. That inspired her to set up the event in Sergeantsville which is one of over 1,000 St. Baldrick’s events held each year.

According to St. Baldrick’s websites, the statistics of childhood cancer are not good. Everyday 43 children are diagnosed and 12 percent of those diagnosed will not survive. There are more than 40,000 children undergoing treatment for cancer every year, and 60 percent of them will suffer from side effects later in life, such as infertility, and even fatal ones such as heart failure and secondary cancers.

At this year’s event in Sergeantsville, the clippers started buzzing around noon and a remembrance ceremony began at 4pm. Volunteers held candles as names of children in the local area who are still fighting were read in prayer for healing.

During this Amelia Vendenberghe, a 22 year old cousin of Rayanna, sang a soulful version of “Beneath My Wings,” in front of a giant sign that spelled HOPE in tiny glowing lights.

Vendenberghe explained her motivation saying, “Hair grows back, kids do not.”

She plans on becoming a Pediatric Oncologist, a medical specialty she says she hopes one day no one will need.

The fund raiser marked 5 years during which time the group has raised $250,000, funding 3 grants, and helping support the development a medication to help children with cancer.

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the head shaving began after the remembrance ceremony when it actually started before it. The article has been updated to reflect this correction. 

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