St. Baldrick’s Team Teddy returns to Fairfield the day before St. Patrick’s
FAIRFIELD — If it’s March, it means that bald is beautiful in Fairfield.
This is the month for St. Baldrick’s events, where participants shave their heads after raising donations for pediatric cancer research. The Team Teddy event, which will take place this year the day before St. Patrick’s Day, is held in honor of Teddy Gerber, who died from cancer.
It’s held at Osborn Hill, where he went to school, and this year, Team Teddy is ranked 15th in fundraising worldwide, with over $25,000 in donations. Since 2010, when Team Teddy’s event began, it has raised over $910,000. Teddy was 9 years old when he died in August, 2010.
Bill Gerber, Teddy’s dad and a member of the Representative Town Meeting, said no matter what your mood, when you walk into Osborn Hill during the annual event, the energy, love and mutual support “is overwhelming and will make you smile.”
The Cub Scouts at Osborn Hill had been hosting St. Baldrick’s for a couple of years before Teddy was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2009. Pack leader Tim Kery invited the Gerbers to get involved.
“Teddy had such a wonderful time at the event in his honor, and eventually pulled down the hood of his sweatshirt — which he always wore after losing his hair from chemotherapy — when he realized all his buddies were bald too,” Gerber said. “It was one of the last truly fun times Teddy had with his friends and classmates before he passed away that summer.”
Kery and his sons Finn, Sean and Matt, continue to have their heads shaved every year, while his wife, Dana, organizes the volunteer barbers. This year, those barbers will be coming from Demetri’s Barber Shop, Fairfield Barber, Mikail’s and Salon Isa.
Other participants from that original Team Teddy event that continue to come back every year are Jim and Chris Muschett; Dave, Will and Peter Hinkle; and Lawrence, Zach and Ben Ratner.
Longtime participation merits special recognition. Chris Bolash, who has raised over $115,000 since 2012, will be made a Knight of the Bald Table this year, signifying seven years of participation.
“Being a partner at Ernst & Young hasn’t stopped Chris from going all out to raise money, including sporting some whacky hairstyles the day before he shaves,” Gerber said.
Teddy’s brother, John, has raised over $116,000 over nine years and will be heading home from college to get his head shaved.
“As of today, we have 22 existing Knights of the Bald Table who have signed up again this year, plus eight new Knights to be celebrated,” Gerber said. Knight Commanders — those who have participated for 10 years — include Tim and Finn Kery, and Evan O’Keefe, who will again be going bald. Sean Kery will become a Knight Commander this year.
Celebrity shavees include First Selectman Mike Tetreau, who took part last year, and state Sen. Tony Hwang, who is expected to have his head shaved this year.
Friends Karen Quinn and Charlotte Lee have been shaving their heads since 2016.
“Shaving our heads is a simple and very visible way to raise awareness for a worthy cause,” Quinn said. “Also, it’s like giving blood — overall painless, and potentially life saving.”
Since they started, Lee said they learned a new quote, which has become a favorite: “Research matters. One person’s hair on the floor means less hair on a child’s hospital pillowcase.”
“Participation is by no means limited to shaving,” Gerber said. “Team Power of Peace, led by Team Capt. Ally Schwartz, raises money each year in memory of Grace Evanko, who passed away from a brain tumor in 2013.”
Many of the volunteers return each year to help run the event, which includes a bake sale and a gift basket raffle. People don’t need to be a shavee to attend.
So far, 2014 saw the most shavees at 166 with $120,640 raised, while 2015 saw 144 shavees, but $149,456 raised in donations. This year, 62 shavees have signed up as of March 7, with $36,061 raised, but last year saw more than 70 people sign up to go bald the week before, or even the night of the event.
Team Teddy continues to receive contributions through the end of the year, because of late donations to shavees. Through Recycling for Team Teddy, people return cans and bottles and donate the funds to St. Baldrick’s. To date, over $2,500 has been raised via recycling.