Valparaiso now has more bald heads walking around than ever before. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon Valparaiso University hosted their 5th Annual St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser to help raise money for children with cancer by asking people to shave their head.
Each year the event is hosted by the Valparaiso Men’s Soccer Team, who got the idea for the university to get involved with the foundation five years ago when Tom Serratore brought the notion of hosting an event for St. Baldrick’s to his coaches.
And it’s “exploded ever since,” said Serratore.
“I first heard about St. Baldrick’s back when I was a freshman at Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois and one of my friends had leukemia so I wanted to do what I could and shave my head for him.” Serratore explained. “I’ve done it each year since. We first started at a barber shop with only raising $5,000 and now we’ve grown incredibly since then. I have a true passion for raising money to help kids with cancer and it’s great to see that everyone in Valpo does too.”
Since the first St. Baldrick’s event, with only the soccer team themselves raising awareness, there has been an incredible influx of participants to join the cause. With the increased recognition of the event, year by year the money raised grows. This year they raised over $52,000 - a new record. Within the five years they have put on the event, they have garnered a total of over $152,000 for the foundation.
Valparaiso University Men’s Soccer Coach Mike Avery explained that though the money is important to the cause, what’s more imperative to the event is the support the community brings forth.
“There’s so many things that you can do to show support to these kids - whether it be shaving your head, saying a prayer or sending a card.” Avery stated. “This event is not just about the money that we raised it really is about sending a message out to the world that we really want to beat [cancer], and that we’re behind all of these children. This grows bigger and bigger each year and we’re only limited by our imagination of what we can do for the ones who need it the most.” One by one, young people, kids, VU students and staff, and older men and women walked onto the stage only to walk off with a freshly shaved buzz cut. The university’s pep band played to keep things upbeat, and family and friends cheered every person on as they quickly lost their hair.
The men got their go first, and then it was the brave women who took their seat to say goodbye to their hair. Some loved it, some were shocked, but in the end they all agreed that their hair is just hair and that it was totally worth it.
Brenda Brueckheimer, who was a part of the team Porter4Phoenix that raised almost $4,000 for 9 year old Phoenix Bridegroom (who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia), was one of the women who loved every second. She said it was the least that that her and seven others could do for Phoenix.
“Raising money for kids like Phoenix is the only way that we can make a change.” Brueckheimer stated. “We can’t stop and wait around for others to do it for us. As a community when we pull together, and with the power of this generation, we really do realize that the change can happen if we decide to do it. Plus shaving your head is the easy part, I absolutely love it.”
In all, the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser is an incredibly important event for children who need all of the support they get. Each year more and more people ‘dream big, and go bald’ in the name of vital research. As Valparaiso University President Mark Heckler put it - when there’s passion for change, there will always be someone to do whatever it takes to make that change happen.
“People want to be a part of something greater than themselves and so when you positive thing going on, with so much energy as this one, you just want to be a part of it.” President Heckler stated. “Everyone wants to be able to change a life. When you meet a young person and you recognize the struggles that they have been through all we need to do is to feed that engine to get closer to a cure. So in return it keeps getting bigger and bigger - and we’re no where close to being done yet.”