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More than $60,000 raised to fight cancer at Havre de Grace head-shaving event

Susquehanna Hose volunteers say St. Baldrick's fundraiser will exceed expectations

BY DAVID ANDERSON, daanderson@baltsun.com

9:41 PM EDT, March 17, 2014

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Organizers of the inaugural Havre de Grace head-shaving fundraiser for the St. Baldrick's Foundation raised at least $60,500 for children's cancer research, an amount that is more than double their goal.

The head-shaving event, which was put together by members of the Susquehanna Hose Company, took place Saturday under a tent in the parking lot in front of Bill Bateman's Bistro.

Stylists with Color Images Salon & Day Spa of Havre de Grace shaved people's heads.

Lead organizer Billy Berg, a member of the volunteer fire company, struggled to find the right words to express his feelings about the community response.

"Amazing," he responded. "That's all I can say, is 'amazing,' that's all I can put [into words] right now; I'm still trying to digest all this."

Speaking about 30 minutes before the head-shaving event ended, Berg said at least $60,500 had been raised. People volunteer to get their heads shaved before the audience, raising money in the community beforehand to support their participation.

The fundraising goal listed on the event page is $25,000, and Berg said slightly less than $49,000 had been raised as of Saturday morning.

"Thank you, everyone," Berg told the audience. "Thank you very much."

About 60 men and women, and even a few children, volunteered to get their heads shaved, according to Berg.

One "shavee" was Stacy MacBurney of Havre de Grace. Her daughter is friends with Berg's daughter, and she learned about the St. Baldrick's event through that connection.

MacBurney raised $1,000 to support getting her long, reddish-brown hair, which hung past her shoulders, cut off.

"Trying to get rid of this, I thought it would be pretty easy to get people to donate, to get rid of it all," she said before she went up on stage.

MacBurney said she also planned to donate locks of her hair to make wigs for children who have lost their hair to cancer treatments.

A stylist braided the majority of MacBurney's hair and snipped it for donation, before shaving off the rest.

"I figured with how long my hair is, might as well donate to two things a once," she said.

"It's feels very weird," MacBurney said later. "It's different."

Her daughters Leigha, 12, and Haley, 11, also wanted to make hair donations. Leigha wanted to have her head shaved, and Haley wanted to get her hair cut for wigs.

"When that little girl's mom was explaining her story, and my mom got her head shaved, I felt like donating mine," Haley said.

The "little girl" Haley mentioned is Serena Whitt.

Serena, 9, of Delta, Pa., has been living with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer which typically affects infants and children 5 years old and younger.

She came to Saturday's event with her parents, Jeff and Becky, and brothers Jacob, 16, Jack, 14, and Josh, 11, as well as her longtime friend, Kelsi Muller.

Kelsi, also 9, raised $50 and got her head shaved Saturday.

She stood on stage with Serena and her parents wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words "cancer sucks."

Becky Whitt spoke about how "it's been one heck of a journey" for her family, dealing with the pediatric cancer that her daughter has lived with since age 3.

She said Serena has been through bone marrow transplants, 100 rounds of chemotherapy, even radiation treatments where she had to be isolated from the rest of her family.

The cancer has been stabilized with low doses of chemotherapy.

"She's like a ray of sunshine, and treatment like she's getting really can't be done without people like you coming out to raise the funds," Whitt told the audience.

Serena wore a pink T-shirt, red plaid skirt and red headband Saturday. She is bald from the cancer treatments, and her father Jeff said he had been shaving his head in solidarity since she lost her hair about three years ago.

He said the family has been through "a roller coaster ride of emotions."

"She handles it better than any of us," Whitt said of his daughter.

Kelsi played in the parking lot with Serena after getting her head shaved.

"I'm cold, and it feels creepy if people want to rub my head," Kelsi said.

They attend Delta-Peach Bottom Elementary School and have been friends since kindergarten.

Kelsi said her mom suggested getting her head shaved to support St. Baldrick's.

"I took a few days to think about it, and I said, 'yes,' because I love her," she said, pointing to Serena.

Serena was grateful for her friend's support.

"I'm just glad that Kelsi got her head shaved to support me," she said. "It means a lot to me."