Usually kids don't like to get their hair cut, but on one special day every year in Fairfield, a close shave is the coolest thing in town -- and parents are the ones usually dragged along.
For the ninth consecutive year, "Team Brent" sponsored a St. Baldrick's Day "shave-a-thon" event, a benefit showing solidarity battling cancer and help raise funds to find a cure for the disease. This year the event took place Sunday at Fairfield Warde High School, where activities also included a baked goods sale, a LEGOS "block party," head and face painting, a DJ, bone marrow drive, free portrait photos of shavees, a Harlem Shake dance videotaping and food vendors.
Overall, St. Baldrick's events like Team Brent's fund more childhood cancer research grants than any other organization except the U.S. government, according to organizers.
Speaking about the Team Brent origins, co-founder Dana McCreesh said, "Team Brent was formed nine years ago when my then-3-year-old son Brent was battling Stage 4 cancer. Today, he's 10 years old and is shaving his head for the third time so that, in his words, `other kids can play sports and chess like me.' "
McCreesh noted that cancer affects people in so many ways these days. "Every shavee, our volunteers, they all have a story," she said. "We want to keep fighting until they are all happy."
Regarding her son's experience, McCreesh said, "Brent doesn't remember being sick. He just wants to fight for other kids. We still go to a doctor, but he's out of the woods. When he was diagnosed, he had 20 to 25 percent odds of survival. That same diagnosis is around 40 percent survival now due to everyone's efforts."
There were just a couple dozen men getting their heads shaved in a bar at Team Brent's first fundraiser. Gradually, they started bringing friends and the group grew. A few years ago, organizers recognized that half of the people were youngsters. "Now we're at 65 percent kids," said McCreesh. "It made sense to make this a daytime event."
Over the past nine years, Team Brent's St. Baldrick's Day event has raised over $3 million. "Our goal today is $150,000," said McCreesh. "As of this morning, we're already over $100,000. The community is so supportive, from some 60 volunteers to the hundreds of people that turn out for the event."
Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau was a guest Sunday, welcoming the gathering. "This is my first time attending," he said. "It's the ultimate Fairfield event. When you think back to Colonial times here, people supported each other in crop harvesting and barn raising -- things you couldn't handle on your own. The community is coming together now in the same fashion through this event. It defines our community spirit."