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More than $70,000 raised for childhood cancer research at Havre de Grace St. Baldrick's event

Organizers of the St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser in Havre de Grace estimate they have beaten last year's fundraising total with $71,600 raised for childhood cancer research at Saturday's head-shaving event. (David Anderson/Aegis video)

Organizers of the second annual St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser in Havre de Grace estimate they have beaten last year's fundraising total by about $8,600, with $71,600 raised for childhood cancer research at Saturday's head-shaving event.

"It was incredible," lead organizer Billy Berg said Sunday. "It was a huge success; it far exceeded our expectations, that's for sure."

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Local head-shaving events take place across the country each year, as adults and children working in teams or as individuals volunteer to have their heads shaved on stage and raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

The foundation, which is headquartered in Monrovia, Calif., provides funding to conduct research on childhood cancer, find a cure and improve treatments for children living with a disease that causes death in more children in the U.S. than any other ailment, according to the organization's website, http://www.stbaldricks.org.

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Berg, a volunteer member of the Susquehanna Hose Company of Havre de Grace and a firefighter Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, was the lead organizer for the St. Baldrick's event, which was put on Saturday afternoon in front of Bill Bateman's Bistro in the Swan Creek Village Center.

Major supporters included Susquehanna Hose, Berg's fellow BWI firefighters, Bateman's, Color Images Salon, of Havre de Grace, and Chesapeake Rent All and the Cytec aerospace materials firm.

Cytec and Chesapeake Rent All, which are both in Havre de Grace, provided equipment for the stage and amusements for children, according to Berg.

Berg said about 80 people got their heads shaved. The volunteers, known as "shavees," sat in barber's chairs on stage as stylists from Color Images did the shaving. Their friends and relatives cheered them on, and they took photos and recorded video.

The $71,600 was raised through shavees' efforts leading up to Saturday, and then cash and checks collected during the event, Berg explained.

Scott Hurst, fire chief for Susquehanna Hose, noted during the event that organizers wanted to bring in about 15 to 20 more shavees this year. About 60 people got their heads shaved during the 2014 event, which was also held at Bill Bateman's.

Hurst also praised those who gave money.

"In the last couple of days, the donations have been unbelievable," he said.

Participants could enjoy Bateman's food and drink under a tent, and restaurant owner Christian Giansante thanked his staff for their efforts.

"It's just wonderful to see everyone come together for an event like this," he said.

Justin Fleming, a resident of Rising Sun, and his nephew got their heads shaved. They made up a fundraising team called Family 4 a Cure. He wore a button on his shirt that stated, "Ask me why I'm bald."

Fleming, an Air Force veteran, said he has had "blood family and military family" affected by cancer, and he and his relatives will take part in any area event to raise money to fight the disease.

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"Anything we can, we will do for cancer research," he said.

Jim Sampson, a member of Susquehanna Hose and Havre de Grace resident, participated in the head shaving for the second consecutive year with his 7-year-old grandson Ethan and his "firehouse buddy," 5-year-old Robert Triplett.

Ethan raised $3,297 for St. Baldrick's and Robert raised $1,610, according to their families.

"We come out here to help the children with cancer, because cancer sucks, especially when it involves children," Jim Sampson said.

The trio was joined on stage by Jim's son Greg, who went through his inaugural head shaving. The members of the group went on stage with wild hair that was dyed bright colors.

"These guys have inspired not only me, but a lot of people this year to come out and be a part of St. Baldrick's," Greg Sampson said.

Nick Saacks, of Havre de Grace, stood on stage with his 11-year-old son Thomas, who has beaten cancer, and he thanked the crowd for supporting St. Baldrick's.

"It's truly amazing that you have a two-year [fundraising] total pushing $120,000," he said when he learned organizers expected Saturday's receipts would equal last year's total.

Saacks said his son has been in remission for the past two years from a rare form of liver cancer. He described an outpouring of support from the local community when Thomas was being treated.

"It was truly amazing, and there's no way we could ever repay the community for that," he told the audience.

Saacks said later that he and his family moved to Harford County from New Jersey in 2010 as part of the BRAC process. He is a civilian employee of the Department of the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Thomas Saacks was diagnosed in December of 2012, a week before his ninth birthday. He has been in remission since May of 2013, according to his father.

Thomas is in the fifth grade at Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace and said he plays soccer and lacrosse.

His family contributed money to St. Baldrick's and participates in as many community fundraising events as possible to fight cancer.

"All the money that you raise goes to the hospitals to find cures, to get things for the children who are going through [cancer]," Thomas said.

Serena Whitt, 10, of Delta, Pa., and her family were honored during the 2014 St. Baldrick's event, and they were recognized again Saturday.

Serena was being treated for neuroblastoma last year and was bald from the cancer treatments. Her friend Kelsi Muller got her head shaved in Serena's honor last year, and Serena helped a stylist shave Kelsi's head.

Serena, who now has a full head of dark hair, returned for Saturday's event with her mother Becky and with Kelsi. Serena is "technically" in remission, as her cancer has not progressed, according to her mother.

Kelsi got her head shaved again, with Serena's help. Wayne Short, a Carroll County resident who is a BWI firefighter and longtime friend of Becky Whitt, got his head shaved in Serena's honor last year and also participated this year.

"We just wanted to come out and support him and thank him," Becky Whitt said of Short.

Whitt said her daughter has complications from the cancer and the treatments, with impacts to her hearing, heart, kidneys and immune system.

She described some of the cancer treatments as "barbaric," and she noted St. Baldrick's funds research into improving those treatments.

"That's so important, because Serena went through some really difficult treatments," Whitt said.

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