NORWICH — The Norwich St. Baldrick's event will be returning to the Norwich American Legion this year at 1 p.m. on March 18 to shave heads and raise money for children's cancer research.
The website for the 2023 event, StBaldricks.org/events/norwich2023, is open for participants to sign up as a volunteer, team leader or member, or shavee, or to donate to the cause.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation is one of the largest funders of children's cancer research in the world, netting a total of $23,075,785 toward research in 2022.
In Norwich, a team of dedicated individuals that comprise the Norwich St. Baldrick's Committee work to inspire area residents to donate to the organization, and even shave their heads in solidarity for children diagnosed with cancer.
The group hosted their last fully in-person event in 2020 on March 14. Just a few days later, the state was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021 and 2022, they were able to keep the event going by making it virtual; The events were live streamed on the St. Baldrick's - Norwich, NY Facebook page, with committee members and some participants attending a small, in-person gathering at the Blarney Stone Pub in Norwich.
This year, however, the Norwich St. Baldrick's is back for a fully in-person event.
"We’re back at the Legion this year, which I’m thrilled about," said Norwich St. Baldrick's Organizer Jamie Burchill. She added that while it's not confirmed yet, she does hope to add a virtual component for those who can't be there in person. "At this point, yes, it is 100 percent in person, hoping that we have options."
Participants in the fundraiser have the option of signing up to be a volunteer and collect donations, start or join a team of individuals raising money, or signing up to be a "shavee," and not only raise money leading up to the event, but also shave their heads on March 18.
"You could think of yourself as a volunteer. So you’re not a shavee, but you’re still raising money," Burchill explained. "I know we have people that are like team organizers that may not be shaving their head, but they’re making sure they’re raising money and getting the word out there and doing what they need to do."
But for those thinking about shaving their heads, Burchill said, "It's just hair."
"We even had pins that said, ‘Ask me why I’m bald.’ Just telling people I shaved my head to help cure childhood cancers, it just means a lot. I think to me personally, being able to say that I’m trying my best to make a difference and I’m not just asking for donations, I’m saying, look what I’m doing."
In 2022, the Norwich St. Baldrick's was able to raise a whopping $54,835 ⸺ smashing their prior record of $38.315. Burchill said she doesn't plan to slow down this year, and has set the overall fundraising goal at $50,000.
Donations can be made at StBaldricks.org/events/norwich2023 either to the overall fundraiser, an individual, or a team. Burchill said "every penny raised at our event goes directly to the St. Baldrick's Foundation."
Fundraising efforts for this year are off to a good start, with $2,328 raised so far, more than $1,000 of which was raised at the Halfway to St. Baldrick's event held at Hidden Springs Brewhouse in September.
The Halfway event began as a result of the pandemic: because participants couldn't gather for the usual day of head shaving, fundraising, and raffle basket sales, the committee decided to host Halfway to St. Baldrick's as a way to continue raising money through raffle basket sales.
Despite the easing of COVID restrictions and the return of their in-person head shaving event, Burchill said Halfway to St. Baldrick's was a "silver lining" of a difficult time that is here to stay.
"We used to do that all at the event before COVID, and it made for, I hate to say it, but it made for a very long night because not only were we shaving heads but then we’d raffle off baskets," she explained. "So we have the Halfway, which is all raffle baskets, and we get killer donations from people around the area, and then we have the event, which is primarily to focus on the head shaving. So, silver lining."
She said several local vendors and businesses will donate raffle baskets, and committee members all contribute baskets to help raise as much money as they can for a good cause.
Although they're off to a strong start, Burchill said there's still a lot to do and a long way to go before the Norwich St. Baldrick's event in March. But, she said it's never too late to get involved, whether that's the day before the event, or after it's passed.
"We’re still looking for corporate sponsors, we’re still looking for shavees, we’re looking for just donations, and we will up until the day of the event. I think last year we had two the night before sign up to shave their heads," she said. "Anybody can go on [the website] at any point throughout the year and donate."
More information on the St. Baldrick's Foundation can be found at StBaldricks.org. More information on the Norwich St. Baldrick's event can be found at StBaldricks.org/events/norwich2023 and on the St. Baldrick's - Norwich, NY Facebook page.