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When Shawn Medley arrived at the St. Augustine School on Saturday, his hair cascaded down his back to his waist. By the time he left, his head was barren (including his beard).
After his haircut his head felt about 10 pounds lighter.
“There was a lot there,” Medley said.
He said his hair hadn’t been that short probably since he was born. Medley had been growing his hair for three and a half years. He made a pair of massive donations to Locks of Love before the rest of his head was cleaned as part of the 2013 St. Baldrick’s event.
This was Medley’s first time shaving his head, but he participated with a team, It’s a Family Off-Hair, which has participated for a few years.
Ninety-eight shavees and 12 teams participated in this year’s event. Together they raised $38,597.74 as of Monday, according to event coordinator Sheila Buckman-Lanham said.
Regardless, the unofficial total is already the most ever raised in the history of the local event. The previous record was $30,039, which was raised in 2008.
“Obviously it shows the generosity of our community,” Buckman-Lanham said.
Since the first event in 2007, the Marion County event has raised more than $179,000, all of which goes toward research for children’s cancer.
Citizens National Bank has sponsored the event every year since it began, and they continue to do so because of the work of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“It’s such a great organization,” Buckman-Lanham said. “Hopefully, any money that we have raised will make a tremendous impact on curing childhood cancer.”
St. Augustine School has hosted the event every year, and a special presentation was made to the school in appreciation of its support.
Likewise, a group of nine individuals were inducted a members of Knights of the Bald Table on Saturday. These are individuals who have participated in St. Baldrick’s events for seven years. Shavees Eric Daugherty, Shawn Gibson, Jerry Helm, Chad Hood and Jim Reed of the CNB Baldies team, and Daniel Webb were knighted. They were joined in knighthood by stylists Vickie Childers, Darlene Morgan and Connie Smith, all of Buck and Doe Barber Shop.
While the event brings back familiar faces each year, new participants show up as well. One new team this year was Casper and the Looneytunes. “Casper” is Sue Beavers who is undergoing treatments for non-small cell lung cancer. The team included her husband, her seven siblings, her daughter and other relatives.
“I’m very proud of them,” Beavers said after watching them all take their turns in the barber’s chairs. “That’s my inspiration, my family. I love each and every one of them.”
Sheila Moore, one of Beavers’s sisters, was actually participating in St. Baldrick’s for the second time this year.
“We’re hoping that they can find a cure for childhood cancer, and then when they get older, they won’t have to worry about it,” Moore said.
The event started with Anthony Epps, an assistant coach for the state champion Marion County Lady Knights, serving as the honorary barber. Epps took the first swipe at the head of Bob Abell, who is the grandfather of this year’s ambassador child, Avery Leachman, 9.
Avery was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. She underwent surgery last year to remove the cancerous cells, and she stood proudly by Abell’s side as his head was shorn.
Avery wasn’t the only ambassador child to attend this year’s event. Matthew Miles (2008) and Landon Thompson (2011) returned as well.
Even Santa Claus was there, sort of. Steve Norris, white beard in tow, got cleaned up for the fourth time this year. He said he keeps participating because of his love of kids.
“This is the only thing I can do for them in the summer,” he said.
That spirit of giving is what brings many people back, people like David Bell of Cox’s Creek, who was taking part in St. Baldrick’s for the second time.
The way he talked, it probably won’t be the last time.
“I’ll do whatever I can to help kids,” he said, “whether it’s cancer or any other disease.”