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In 10th year, 'Brave the Shave' in Arnold raises $80,000 for childhood cancer research

For the last decade — since he was a 6-year-old kindergartner — Billy Edwards has shaved his head every March to raise money for childhood cancer research.

It’s become such a routine that the 16-year-old Broadneck High School sophomore doesn’t get that many questions about it from friends anymore.

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“It’s just a lot of feeling my head,” Billy said. “I just walk through the hall and people are petting me.”

Millions of hairs fluttered to the ground Sunday during the 10th annual Brave the Shave in Memory of Joey Sudo, a charity event at O’Loughlin’s Restaurant in Arnold in which more than 80 heads were shaved to raise more than $80,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

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Joey, a 12-year-old from St. Margaret’s with an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, attended as the honoree for the event’s first year in 2008, when 29 people shaved their heads and raised about $35,000. That event was held in a corner of the restaurant’s bar.

Joey died from the cancer seven years later, but the organizers have kept his name on the event — and developed it into one of the international charity’s most successful events. The 2018 Brave the Shave in Arnold was St. Baldrick’s 15th biggest fundraiser of the year, the foundation said.

“It means a lot, keeping this in memory of Joey,” said his father, Joe Sudo.

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Tom Suit, who organizes the event each year with O’Loughlin’s owner Tom Crawford, said it was a no-brainer. Joey smiled down at the festivities on Sunday from a picture hanging over the stage.

“If you ever met Joey you would understand the love we had for him,” Suit said. “Dealing with a child that has cancer, it’s unimaginable.”

Billy Edwards grew up with Joey’s sister, Jessica. He described a “sad/happy” that comes along with each year’s Brave the Shave.

While it’s a regular reminder of the devastation the Sudos have suffered, he said, “it’s nice to see how they power through it and everyone helping them out.”

The family and organizers credited the attendees who donate their time, money and hair to make it a success.

“It’s the same people year after year,” Jessica said. “They have never let us down.”

Joey’s aunt, Michelle Hudak of Macungie, Pa., gave up a full head of hair on Sunday for her third Brave the Shave.

“I promised him I would keep it going; I would find a way,” Hudak said. “This is my way.”

Weirdest part of losing a full head of hair? “Tomorrow,” she said, “when I take my shower and put the normal amount of shampoo in.” (She wears a big “Ask Me Why I’m Bald” pin to work, she said, and some co-workers have donated to the fundraiser.)

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In recent years, the event has moved from O’Loughlin’s to a giant tent in the parking lot to better accommodate a crowd of more than 100 drinking beers, buying raffle tickets and, of course, making donations to cajole friends and family into facing the razor.

“They’re really giving people,” Crawford said. “They respond to good causes. This comes together in a couple meetings over a cheeseburger, and it’s become one of the community events of the year.”

Mariah Davis, Shannon Huffman and Emidio Tripodi were among the nearly 20 barbers who set up shop in the tent, wielding electric razors over volunteers’ heads as friends and family members crowded nearby — many with phones outstretched to document the brand-new buzz cuts.

Davis and Huffman work at Sport Clips Haircuts of Annapolis, which has succeeded in raising $1 million for the cause over the years, with help from its corporate parent, according to owner Bill Rogers.

The barbers said they enjoy the energetic atmosphere — and the post-shave reactions.

“They just touch it, run their hands through it,” Huffman said.

“It’s liberating, especially for the women,” Davis added.

The event gives the barbers a chance to perform for the crowd a little. Besides, it’s tough to mess up a buzz cut, said Tripodi, who owns Emidio Vincenzo Escape, a barbershop in Severna Park.

“We tend to have a little fun,” he said.

Once participants’ heads are shaved, any other facial hair goes up for auction. An eyebrow can net hundreds of dollars. John Lonergan’s ZZ Top-style beard wasn’t going for less than $1,000.

The Kent Island man recalled his mother’s six-year bout with cancer.

“No child should have to go through that,” he said. “What I do is easy.”

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