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Heavy crowd for St. Baldrick's fundraiser

Even with the lights off, Looney's Pub in Bel Air remained a packed house Saturday, filled with local residents eager to show support for the fight against childhood cancer.

More than 50 people volunteered to have their heads shaved on the Looney's stage to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research. The head shaving, which is performed by licensed barbers and cosmetologists, is designed to show solidarity with those who have lost their hair from cancer treatments.

Event organizer Dylan Baumgardner said about $24,000 had been raised before Saturday's event kicked off, and he expected to exceed organizers' goal of raising $30,000 altogether.

Baumgardner wrote in an e-mail after the event "a rough number" on the total amount raised would be available in the coming days.

"We hope to make next year even greater and are already in the works of planning," he wrote.

Looney's was plunged into sudden darkness in the midst of the head-shaving event Saturday, about one hour and 45 minutes after it started, as a result of a power outage in the Bel Air area.

Baumgardner wrote that "with quick thinking and some ingenuity by our volunteers and DJ we kept the head shaving going."

Power was restored to Looney's after about 90 minutes, and the time for people to contribute funds was extended by two hours.

BGE spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said a piece of the provider's "electric distribution equipment" in the vicinity of the town had failed Saturday afternoon, and "approximately" 3,000 customers had been affected.

The event attendees, many of whom wore kelly green St. Baldrick's T-shirts, continued milling about, while waiting for the power to come back, talking, drinking and eating – Looney's had pledged 20 percent of its proceeds from food and drink sales Saturday to St. Baldrick's.

"Everyone stuck around for the power to come back on and held strong in their attendance to raise money FOR THE LITTLE GUYS," Baumgardner wrote.

A group of people stood outside Looney's in the cooler afternoon air. Ashley Stansfield and her father, John, of Bel Air, were among them.

"We all come out and have a good time," she said while at the edge of a Looney's parking lot packed with cars.

She and her father were part of the Drew's Bel Air Crew team, formed to raise money in honor of the late Andrew "Drew" Eilbacher, a member of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company who died in 2011 at age 24 from complications of a brain tumor.

Eilbacher's fellow Bel Air volunteers – including Baumgardner, who is a firefighter/EMT – organized the head-shaving event for St. Baldrick's in his honor, which was held in College Park last year, and the same group put on this year's event in Bel Air.

A number of teams were formed in honor of people who have died from cancer, who are fighting the disease or are in remission from it.

"The fire department is a brotherhood, and as so as Drew joined he became our brother," John Stansfield said. "This is support for him and support for his family."

Stansfield is a senior firefighter with Bel Air and his daughter is training to be an EMT.

Other honorees Saturday included Caleb Baker, Dominic "The Dominator" Osorio and Adam Sparr.

Adam, whose family lives in Joppa, is an 8-year-old child who has battled leukemia since he was 2 1/2 years old.

His mother, Sharry Sparr, said he is in "maintenance" after battling his way back from a relapse of the disease, which originates in bone marrow and attacks blood cells, which are created in bone marrow, according to WebMD.

"He's in maintenance right now and he's doing really well," Sparr said of her son.

Before the power went out, the curly-haired boy sat in a reserved booth with his parents, relatives and other members of the team "Adam's Angels" formed to raise funds for St. Baldrick's in his honor. Several team members had their heads shaved Saturday.

Adam later stood on stage and read ticket numbers during one of many drawings during the event.

Team member Michelle Cross, a cosmetologist with Alexander Thomas Salon in Bel Air, was also at Saturday fundraiser.

While Adam climbed on his father Daniel's back, Cross said she has worked with Sharry Sparr, also a cosmetologist, over the years, and admired how she and her husband have borne up under their son's illness.

"His parents are nonstop," she said. "They go and they go, and they never stop and they never ask, 'Why?'"

Cross also talked about how well Adam was doing.

"He's a regular kid," she said. "He just wants to be with his friends and have fun."

Caleb Baker is a 5-year-old Bel Air boy, also in maintenance from leukemia; Dominic "The Dominator" Osorio died from cancer of his brain and spine at age 7 in 2009.

Their stories, along with Adam's and Eilbacher's, can be found on the http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/belair website.

Harford County Councilman Joe Woods, who represents the Fallston area, volunteered to have his head shaved Saturday.

He stood outside Looney's during the power outage, still with a full head of hair, waiting to get shaved.

"Just as I get used to my politician's hair, it's going away," he joked.

Woods was appointed to the county council in 2009 to fill the seat of Veronica "Roni" Chenowith, who died of cancer that year. She had served on the council for 15 years.

Woods, who knew Chenowith from his work as chief of the Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company, said he has worked to "be part of any event" to raise funds to fight cancer since he got on the council.

"She'd always really been a mentor and was always really helpful to me," he said of Chenowith.

Twitter.com/DavidInHarford

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