The annual St. Baldrick's Team Teddy head-shaving fundraiser had Osborn Hill School abuzz Friday night, with an outpouring of support for the charity's continuing efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
The event attracted hundreds of "shavees," along with family and friends who pitched in to support the cause. The head-shaving stations were staffed by Salon Isa personnel and Osborn Hill parents, school faculty-run fun including a cupcake walk and bingo, high school students providing hair extensions for girls, baked goods and clothing accessories sales, a raffle for gift baskets donated by local businesses, and food from the Super Duper Weenie truck.
"This is our seventh year doing this, which is a big deal in the St. Baldrick's community," said event coordinator Tracey Smith. "Anyone who has shaved for the cause every year for the past seven years gets honored as a Knight of the Bald Table. This year, we have four honorees, including Finn Kery and Liam Raftery."
To date, the Team Teddy group has raised more than $400,000 for cancer research, including $113,000 last year. "This year, pre-event, we've raised $76,000, and expect to raise over $100,000 easy," said Smith. "We have about 145 signed up to shave, but expect close to 200."
The St. Baldrick's event supported by the Osborn Hill community was organized when pediatric cancer hit home.
Teddy Gerber, in whose honor Team Teddy is named, lost his battle to the disease Aug. 16, 2010, when he was 9. On March 2 of this year, Grace Evanko, a 10-year-old fourth-grader died from a brain tumor.
"These tragedies emphasize the importance for this type of fundraising event," said Smith. "The St. Baldrick's Foundation is second only in fundraising to the federal government."
Smith said Fairfield businesses have been very supportive of the St. Baldrick's campaign. "Susan Kane catering donated a 20-person cocktail party with a $2,000 value," she noted. "And we have 42 donated baskets ranging from cookies to birthday parties."
"This event is so personal for me and the Gerbers," Smith said. "Teddy was sick for nine months and he was in attendance for the first event we held. It was one of the best nights of his life. He realized that he was loved and supported, and now it gives his family the sense that he's not forgotten."
Teddy's father, Bill Gerber, recounted the initial efforts to organize an Osborn Hill fundraiser. "When Teddy got sick, Tracey asked if we could have a fundraiser in his honor. The school had not done this before -- it had only been done through area Cub Scouts," he said. "Because of the personal connection with Teddy, it became a much bigger event. It was an amazing night -- we raised over $100,000 and Teddy, who had lost his hair from chemo, took off his hood and felt comfortable being with his friends who had shaved their heads."
On a somber note, he added, "This year we're also honoring Grace. The Fairfield community is behind the family. We live in a special town. The support is incredible."
Teddy' mother Jessica, a Board of Education member, also had encouraging news about the Team Teddy fundraising efforts, reporting that it has become the 10th-highest earning team among St. Baldrick's organizations internationally. "This event has really magnetized people," she exclaimed.