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August 3, 2010 > Firefighter's 'shave the way' for children in need

Firefighter's 'shave the way' for children in need

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

Hayward's finest and MaryJane Colombini of Antonio's Old Fashion Barber Shop joined forces at Hayward Firefighters Local 1909 Union Hall on Main Street, Hayward, in June 2010 to raise funds for St. Baldrick's Foundation, the non-profit devoted to childhood cancer research.

Thirty-seven firefighters and three boys "shaved the way" in solidarity with children fighting cancer, cheered on by friends and family who sponsored them generously. The volunteers also donated. The marathon lasted from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. with the aim of raising $1,000.

In 2000, a group of friends in the re-insurance industry decided to shave their heads at their St. Patrick's Day party to benefit children with cancer. Each participant's goal was to raise $1,000 and, therefore, a total of $17,000. They raised $104,000.

The event assumed a life of its own and is the largest volunteer-driven program for childhood cancer research worldwide with events in 28 countries and all US states. After the US Government, St. Baldrick's Foundation is the next biggest funding source of childhood cancer research grants. More than 144,000 volunteers, including 12,000 women, have been shorn.

Tom Baker, Hayward Fire Department, wanted to host a local event in Hayward with the Police Officers Association and Hayward Firefighters Local 1909 after witnessing the success of Oakland Children's Hospital's annual fundraiser for St. Baldrick's Foundation. Records were broken.

Whether they had committed to the charity event or remained undecided about succumbing to Columbini's clippers, Hayward's finest were asked to postpone their regular haircuts; both off-duty and on-duty firefighters made the effort to arrive at some point and entered into the spirit of the occasion and cause.

Columbini's skills as a barber were evident and a great source of amusement and entertainment for onlookers as she transformed the three boys and the city's public safety and paramedic staff into New Romantics, Star Trek aliens, punks with mohawks and mohicans and created bald pates and tonsures on the way to a clean shave. Unlike Samson's experience at the hands of Delilah, the nape was cleaned with shaving foam and a cut-throat razor before a scalp massage with a hot towel, prepared by Columbini's sister Maryann.

A barber for 31 years, Columbini has operated in Hayward for five years at Antonio's Old Fashion Barber Shop on Mission Boulevard in the Downtown area, a block away from Fire Station No. 1. Baker wanted to host a local event with a local barber. Columbini's reasons for participating are both personal and altruistic.

"I agreed immediately. I was excited to be asked and to be able to participate and help. My mother has cancer so this is a cause close to my heart. It's bad enough to see an older person suffer but it's really upsetting to see young children in the same situation. They haven't had an opportunity to see life. That's really difficult," said Columbini.

"Although the event at Oakland Children's Hospital was an inspiration, our own fundraiser could have supported another cause but when it comes to childhood cancer how can you turn your back? Police officers and firefighters deal with situations in which people suffer personal loss. Any one of us will tell you that witnessing an innocent child's pain strikes at the heart and soul. Kids are the foundation of our society. St. Baldrick's Foundation is trying to find cures for, or better management of, cancer in children," elaborated Baker. "Everyone who participated understands."

The top fundraisers were Tom Baker and Grade 8 student Spencer Boling, who raised $1,300 and $1,100, respectively. Boling, who graduated recently from Cunha Intermediate School, Half Moon Bay, was coached as a wrestler by Baker and approached friends, neighbors and family in person and by email, obtaining the majority of his sponsors' pledges in two or three days. He rounded off his fundraising success by topping up his total in the remaining weeks before sitting in the barber's chair.

Firefighter Chris Castillo's seven-year old son, "JJ" Castillo, raised $400. He has just completed the First Grade at Ron Nunn Elementary School, Brentwood.

Hayward firefighters and Columbini plan to repeat the event in 2011 with more participants and to beat their 2010 total of $8,571.

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.StBaldricks.org. Alternatively, to donate through Hayward Firefighters Local 1909, visit http://tinyurl.com/287qrjh or contact Tom Baker at tombaker207@comcast.net.

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