Making headway

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Local event raises $22,600 to fight children's cancer

By Stephen Lega

With clippers buzzing and hair flying, the St. Augustine gymnasium became a temporary barbershop Saturday afternoon.


This is the fifth year St. A has been the host site for the local St. Baldrick's event, which raises money for children's cancer research by shaving the heads of its participants.

Citizens National Bank has sponsored the local St. Baldrick's event since it started. Jim Reed, a loan officer at Citizen's National Bank, said this year's 83 shavees have raised $22,600 so far, and more money is still coming in. Over the past five years, approximately 480 people have had their heads shaved, and they have raised $114,700 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

"It just goes to show that year in and year out, this community steps up," Reed said.

During Saturday's event, a bake sale was held which helped raise $1,000 for the family of Landon Thompson, this year's ambassador child. Landon, who is less than a year old, was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma (a type of eye cancer) in January. He has undergone chemotherapy treatments, and according to his father, Pat, Landon was found to be cancer free at his last check-up, although he may still have more treatments.

Pat and his 5-year-old son, Benjamin were among this year's first-time shavees. Pat said the event means a lot to him.

"Hopefully, little kids won't have to go through what [Landon's] going through," he said.

Gary Fields and his son Jacob raised approximately $2,500 this year. Fields said this was his second year as a shavee.

"Kids are most important to me, but I want to find a cure for everyone," he said.

And as usual, it was not just men who get involved. Karen Smith from Marion Adjustment Center gave up her hair for the third time this past weekend. She said the kids who are diagnosed with cancer and their families are the ones who have a hard time.

"This is easy," Smith said.

Kids showed their support for one another as well. Sammi Jo Potter, 10, and Spencer Riggs, 9, became four-time donors, and Matthew Miles, who was the ambassador child for the 2006 St. Baldrick's event, made his annual return for the event.

Joe Paul Mattingly of Marion County Farm Bureau repeated a common refrain among the shavees, that they were doing it for a good cause. That's why Mattingly returned for the second time this year.

"It grew back last year, and it'll grow back this year as well," he said.

Charles Thompson of Loretto was willing to give up everything. On Saturday, his hair, his beard and his mustache were all removed.

"What else am I going to do with that hair? If I can make $20 to cure cancer for a child, I'll do it," he said. "I'd shave every hair on my body if they let me."