A close shave for cancer research

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published March 6, 2015

METRO DETROIT — A few years ago, when Jason Davidson’s hair was completely shaved off during the St. Baldrick’s Foundation cancer fundraiser, a young girl battling the illness came up to him and said “thank you.”

Touched by her words, “It was hard to come up with a response,” Davidson said.

Davidson, the Clintondale Community Schools Board of Education president, will participate in the annual fundraiser March 14 at the Romeo Lions Field House, 269 E. Washington St. The event lasts from noon -9 p.m. and will include raffles, bands, a parade and kids’ activities.

According to event organizer and Washington Township resident Michael Fiscus, the fundraiser generally attracts about 5,000 people throughout the day. Community members from all walks of life are shaved bald to pay tribute to children with cancer who have lost their hair due to treatment. The shavees collect monetary donations to benefit childhood cancer research.

Over the last eight years, the Romeo event has been responsible for shaving 2,315 heads from more than 80 southeast Michigan communities while raising more than $1.4 million in donations. According to organizers, every dollar goes right to the foundation to fund grants.  Shavees come from many cities, including Sterling Heights, Troy, Farmington Hills, Macomb Township, Madison Heights, Rochester, St. Clair Shores and Shelby Township.

“It’s just a very worthwhile cause,” Davidson said. “To think that any kid is supposed to be outside playing and not worrying about life and death and struck with this disease. It’s not right. They’re being robbed of their childhoods.”

Joining him on the “Clintondale Dragons” team is school board Secretary Thomas Evilsizer and Treasurer Michael Scott. Scott has participated for many years, and this marks the fourth time that Evilsizer will go under the razor. The first three times, he was a member of his son Jacob Evilsizer’s team. It was Jacob’s idea to volunteer initially, but this year he will miss the event because he is away at college.

“It’s great to do for the kids,” Evilsizer said. “There’s lot of energy in the room. One of the things I really enjoy is (that) they bring in bagpipes.”

Last year’s event was very personal for Evilsizer because in November 2013, his cousin’s daughter,  Violet, was diagnosed at age 5 with leukemia.

“It made it more special. Last year we all wore violet wristbands,” the school board secretary said. “She is in remission right now. She still has chemo. She has been bald for eight or nine months.”

When in the barber chair in 2014, Evilsizer thought about her the entire time.

Many participants, including the CCS board members, try to have as much hair on their heads as possible before shave day. Davidson, for example, always grows his locks long, sports a beard and even dyes them different colors. Evilsizer has not had a haircut since March of last year.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraisers are held all over the world, and the Romeo event is the eighth-most popular. According to Walled Lake resident Jameson MacBeth, Fiscus became involved in St. Baldrick’s after MacBeth lost his 2-year-old daughter, Faolan, in January 2002 to non-hodgkin lymphoma.

“It’s a charity that is near and dear to my heart,” MacBeth said. “It takes heart and soul to get this together.”

MacBeth recalls Fiscus’ presence at his daughter’s funeral. The pair had not been in touch for quite some time.

“I remember how he sat there for three hours just going through all of the photos,” MacBeth said.

Faolan MacBeth was born Sept. 25, 1999, in Detroit. She came into the world three weeks early and arrived during a homebirth while the MacBeths were having a housewarming party for their new home in the New Center area.

“She was happy and engaging and loving and loved to share. She loved music and she loved dancing,” MacBeth said. “She was just fantastic. She lived a healthy life until after she hit the age of 2.”

That’s when the recurring ear, nose and throat infections started. The toddler was admitted to the hospital while the MacBeths had their second child, a son that Faolan wanted to be called Twinkle Star. Born at home like Faolan was, the new baby was legally named T.S. Derry MacBeth and goes by Derry. Two weeks after Derry was born, his big sister passed away.

“She had a set of little wooden cars. There was a purple one; she loved it,” MacBeth said. “If she didn’t have that or her blanket, we were in trouble. We buried her with (them).”

Two years after Faolan’ loss, the family expanded with the birth of another son named Kieran. Derry, now 13, and Kieran, 11, participate in the St. Baldrick’s event each year by having their heads shaved in honor of the sister they never got to know.

MacBeth’s girlfriend, Heather Powell, of Macomb County, will get her locks shorn this Saturday. Although she wears her hair short, it has been a ritual for her every other year. This year, in an effort to garner donations on Facebook, Powell pledged to color her hair pink. When she hit the $250 mark, she promised to dye her hair purple if she received more donations.

That brought the donations up to $750. Then it was on to dying her hair orange, which increased the donations to $900. Now, Powell has more than $1,000 in donations after coloring her hair green.

As for having her hair shaved off, “It’s very liberating,” Powell said. “It’s very cold. You’ll be amazed how warm your hair keeps your head.”

For more information on the fundraiser, visit www.stbaldricks.org. There is a spot to type in a participant’s name to make a donation.

 

Southeast Michigan’s St. Baldrick’s schedule of events

• 11 a.m.-noon, volunteer registration
• 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., shavee registration
• 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., bingo, face painting, DJ Zak Attak and kids’ activities
• noon-12:20 p.m., parade
• 12:30-1p.m., bagpiper tribute
• 1-1:30 p.m., opening ceremony, including announcements and knighting
• 1:30-5 p.m., head shaving
• 5:15-6 p.m., fieldhouse cleanup (volunteers needed)
• 5-5:15 p.m., raffle drawing
• 5-7 p.m. Celtic rockers Bill Grogan’s Goat will perform at Younger’s Irish Tavern, 120 Main St., in downtown Romeo. Goober and the Peas also are scheduled to play. Check the website for the place and time, as it was not listed at press time.
• 9 p.m. Local musician Ron Alcini will perform at Thee Office Pub, 128 Main St.

SOURCE: WWW.STBALDRICKS.ORG  (St. Baldrick’s in the Village of Romeo also has a Facebook page.)