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St. Baldrick's Day: Fighting cancer one head at a time
By Stephanie Penick | Daily Herald Columnist

Roughly 170 people volunteered to get their heads shaved at a recent St. Baldrick's event in Naperville to raise money to fight childhood cancer. Organizers said the effort raised at least $120,000.


Courtesy Stephanie Penick

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Published: 3/11/2010 12:00 AM

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As a I watched Barbara Walters' retrospective of her interviews of Academy Award nominees Sunday, I got stuck on the image of Debra Winger as actor after actor flashed on the TV screen.

I wondered what happened to the actress who had made such a profound impression years ago when she was nominated and interviewed by Walters for her 1983 film, "Terms of Endearment." Though the film received five Oscars, Winger wasn't so honored for her part.

I still recall when our extended family went to the movies after Christmas dinner that year to see the newly released film starring Winger, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson.

My sisters-in-law and I became attached to the characters and their family relationships, laughing heartily as the romantic comedy-drama unfolded.

I also remember how we bawled almost uncontrollably at the tragic end when the Emma character lost her battle to cancer.

That was then and during the 27 years that have followed, real life has imitated the movies more than I care to say. Too many times friends and family have been faced with the trials and tribulations, sometimes temporarily, that accompany some 200 different types cancer, a disease that continues to shatter lives of all ages because research has yet to find a cure. Everybody is touched by it. It's part of life.

St. Baldrick's Day

I've yet to be at the Holiday Inn Select when police officers and firefighters from Naperville open the doors to their annual St. Baldrick's shaving party, an event that for the past six years has raised money to help battle childhood cancer.

By the time I arrive, the grand ballroom at the hotel usually is packed, bagpipers are playing, chatter is lively, and the shaving is staged with an electric buzz as licensed haircutters from Elegante Salon volunteer for the cause.

Last Friday, men, women and children lined up to take their turn under the banner of St. Baldrick's. Friends cheered, applauded and flashed cameras when locks of hair were reduced to nothing for something.

One by one, folks shaved their heads in solidarity with kids with cancer while raising money from friends and family.

By the end of the event, one of the local organizers with a shiny shaved head, Naperville police Sgt. Tim Jordan, said 170 heads had been shaved.

Thanks to the organizers (Jordan said he simply serves as the "contact person," crediting all members of a much larger committee for their part), shavers, shavees, sponsors and spectators who packed the ballroom, Friday's event was a huge success.

"Kay Smith of Elegante Salons and all the people at the Holiday Inn Select make our event possible," said Jordan. "Every year Kay and Dennis Igoe give without looking back."

Jordan said this year's event has raised nearly $120,000, with the Naperville Jaycees as the top team with nearly $20,000.

He said the event also attracted folks from other communities, many of whom are encouraged to host their own St. Baldrick's.

"We try to get people who come to our event to create more events," he said. "Events can be any month and any size," noting that smaller events year-round would serve to raise more awareness.

Jordan explained that every event is planned by a volunteer event organizer and help is available from the coaches at the St. Baldrick's Foundation, now in its 10th year. He's willing to help advise new startups, too.

For instance, Jordan noted a neighborhood-hosted afternoon event, now in its fifth year, coming up on April 24 at the Crosstown Pub, located at 909 E. Ogden Ave. in Naperville.

But you don't have to shave or go to an event to support St. Baldrick's. You can purchase raffle tickets, sponsor someone who shaves, offer moral support, talk about it, donate directly to St. Baldrick's Foundation or go online to learn more, etc.

Jordan said it's pretty easy to find other local events, too. Simply search online for "St. Baldrick's Foundation Chicago Area Events."