By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Brave donors young and old will be shaving their heads to further cancer research and save the lives of children across the country at the annual Just Irish Enough Saint Baldrick’s fundraiser.
Fourth-grader Sadia Holt has been waiting over a year to step up to the challenge.
“My grandma and art teacher shaved their heads before at the event and I really wanted to help out,” Sadia said.
The Jefferson Elementary student is a determined one-woman team, who has raised $950, far surpassing her original goal of $500 and putting her team, The Grateful Heads, in first place. Friends, family and other donors heard about her valiant effort and wanted to help the cause.
“I’m really proud of her,” Mom Crystle Liebhart said. “She is very brave. It’s not easy doing something like this on your own.”
Sadia first told her mom that she wanted to shave her head last year, but Crystle said she should think about it and wait until next year. Ever since, Sadia was asking her mom about it nearly everyday. Last week Sadia spoke to her classmates about why she was shaving her head.
The annual event set for March 16 at the DeWitt Community Center and Lincoln Park in DeWitt, serves many children suffering from a variety of cancers. One of the most enthusiastic beneficiaries and participants is 6-year-old Joseph Burken, of DeWitt, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July 2011. Burken and his family have been very active with the event, raising money and sacrificing locks.
“This young man is the epitome of how resilient a child could be,” Burken’s doctor, Sue O'Dorisio, said. “It’s amazing to see the response of children who have health problems helping other children with illnesses. In return they really help the community.”
This year, O'Dorisio will speaking at the event and discussing her gratitude to the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation that granted her funds to revolutionize the way childhood brain cancer is dealt with and ultimately save lives.
With the new grant, O’Dorisio and her colleagues will be able to identify the severity of a brain tumor before the first surgery, thus identifying those who could be cured without radiation therapy. It will also allow the doctors to measure how well chemotherapy is working, so they can change the therapy faster. Lastly, the new discovery will allow them to locate relapse earlier.
“This could really change the way we do things,” O’Dorisio said. “We will be able to figure out if it is a low grade tumor or a more aggressive tumor and better inform the neurosurgeon.”
Despite her impressive background and advanced education, O’Dorisio says that it is really the children who make the difference.
“What a privilege it is to work with children who are meeting these great challenges,” O’Dorisio said.
Day of registration for the event starts at 11 a.m. followed by the walking parade at 12 p.m. and the shaving of the heads ceremony at 1 p.m. There will also be food vendors, bake sale, kids activities, music and more. Participants are encouraged to don Irish-themed gear.
Event T-shirts will be available for purchase. All shavees will receive a shirt.
Event organizers are still looking for more volunteers, participants and shavees for the event. They hope to raise $40,000 at this year’s event, the community raised $38,000 last year. For more information visit stbaldricks.org or contact Jennifer Naeve at 563-249-3854. The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity that funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government.