NORWICH — The annual head-shaving event to raise money for children's cancer research, St. Baldrick's, will be returning in 2022 with a virtual event scheduled for Saturday, March 19, beginning at 1 p.m.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a nationwide 501(c)3 nonprofit organization driven entirely by volunteers and charitable donations. Founded in 1999, the organization has raised $312 million in research grant funding since 2005.
The Norwich event has a fundraising goal of $31,000, according to St. Baldrick's Volunteer Jamie Burchill, who is gearing up for her first year of organizing the event.
"So last years goal was 30,000 [dollars], and I think we ended up bringing over 38,000 [dollars]," she said. "But because last year’s was 30, it’s my first year, I put it at 31. But of course I want to blow that out of the water."
The Norwich St. Baldrick's team is well on their way to reaching their goal. So far, $11,250 has been raised for the 2022 campaign; over a third of the overall fundraising goal.
Burchill will also be shaving her head for her first year, joining many others to show support for children battling cancer. Those who sign up as "shavees" will get access to a separate website they can share with friends and family for donations.
"So the organization itself, it runs purely on donations, people shaving their heads, standing in solidarity with the children that lose their hair due to treatment. So people shave their heads, raise money, and all the proceeds go to St. Baldrick's," Burchill explained.
"Everyone that signs up as a shavee, they have their own separate site," she continued. "I’m actually shaving my head this year, for my inaugural year. So I have a site that I’ll share with my friends, family. I send that out on Facebook once a week, or I send out the QR code. People can go in there and donate directly to me from that site."
To register as a shavee for the Norwich event, visit stbaldricks.org/events/Norwich2022. Last year's event drew in 29 shavees, and so far 16 have signed up for the 2022 event. However, those who aren't ready to "brave the shave" are also welcome to donate on the same website.
"Anyone can donate. You can donate directly to Norwich St. Baldrick's, it doesn’t have to be under a specific name," Burchill said. "Like, all of our current committee members have all signed up ... They’re not going to shave their heads, but they can still collect donations."
The 2020 Norwich St. Baldrick's Event was one of the last in-person events of that year, according to Burchill. Since then, the events have been virtual due to the pandemic. However, organizers got creative and found a way to make the online event still feel like a collaborative activity.
Thanks to local volunteer and technology guru Matt Genny, committee members are able to live stream the event and patch in streams of participants braving the shave from home. Shavees can also record themselves and send the video in to committee members.
"I have one woman, this is her eighth year shaving her head. She’s not available the weekend we’re doing it, so she’s going to videotape it and send it to me, and then I’ll share it with Matt," Burchill explained. "But typically we have a time for each person. They know what time they need to be ready and on camera, and then we stream that live."
In 2021, the Norwich St. Baldrick's committee gathered at the Blarney Stone Pub for the livestream event, and Burchill said they hope to do something similar this year.
"As a committee, this will be the second year doing this. We’ll come together where we’ll also have Matt to do the technology piece, and we might have a couple shavees right there in the committee that’ll shave their heads on camera," she said. "We also have an emcee running the event, so he keeps the energy up there and keeps people engaged."
According to the 2022 Norwich St. Baldrick's Facebook event page, those who would like to participate but may not have access to internet or hair clippers are encouraged to reach out to the team to find a solution. The team can be reached via Facebook, email at email@example.com, or by calling 607-226-1299.
In addition to fundraising efforts by committee members and participants, the 2022 Norwich St. Baldrick's has also received hero-level sponsorship from New York Central Mutual (NYCM) and NBT/NBT Insurance.
"The hero-level sponsor is the highest level, and it’s any donation 5,000 [dollars] or above," said Burchill. "NBT/NBT Insurance and New York Central both came in at that level."
Another COVID modification and fundraising effort is the newly established "Halfway to St. Baldrick's" event held in October.
"Everything went haywire from the pandemic. We used to have raffle baskets, like silent auctions, at our events. But because even though ours was the last event that could be in person, we had to cut the number down of people. I think each shavee could bring one or two people in 2020," Burchill explained. "So now, and it worked out beautifully, because we adapted to have a Halfway to St. Baldrick's event at Hidden Springs."
There will also be a Give Back Night to benefit St. Baldrick's from 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, February 14 at Gilligan's in Sherburne. A portion of the profits will go to the 2022 Norwich St. Baldrick's fundraiser. So, attendees can enjoy a tasty Valentine's Day dinner or dessert while also supporting a good cause.
While braving the shave can seem daunting, Burchill emphasized that hair will always grow back, and participating is a powerful way to show support and solidarity for children facing cancer.
"It’s just hair," said Burchill. "And when people ask me why I’m shaving my head, I put it simply: if it were my babies that were sick, I’d want somebody to do it for me."