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Posted: 03/12/14

Above, Romeo Village President Mike Lee getting his hair shaved by his 5-year-old daughter, Kendall, at Younger's March 7. Below top, Washington Township Supervisor Dan O'Leary with one last strand of hair being shaved before it is all gone. Below bottom, Macomb County Justice David Viviano traveled to Romeo from Lansing on March 7 to help support St. Baldrick's as he has done for the last several years.

(Observer photos by Mike Nicley)

Shave a head, help save
a life at St. Baldrick's

Observer Staff Writer
      The image of a child without hair due to cancer treatments can be heart-breaking. However, on March 15, more than 600 volunteers are turning hairless heads into a symbol of hope.
       Romeo's 7th annual St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser is set for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Romeo Lions Field House, located at 269 E. Washington St.
       Each year, 175,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with cancer, and in the U.S., more kids die from cancer than any other disease. Volunteers from around Macomb County are joining forces to raise money for childhood cancer research.
       The fundraiser works by volunteers collecting donations, and on the day of the event they have their heads completely shaved. The gesture is a showing of solidarity with children that lose their hair during cancer treatments.
       The Romeo fundraiser has set a goal of $350,000 for this year's efforts. As of March 7, the Romeo fundraiser was 31 percent on its way to its goal with $111,420 raised.
       Kevin Danaj, a volunteer organizer, said the pace is on par with previous years, so he has faith the goal will be met.
       "I always say I look at it as a small town doing big things, and how the Romeo area gives back is amazing," Danaj said.
       An army of 100 volunteers has worked feverishly to make the event run as smooth as a shaved head for attendees, with 30 stylists giving up their Saturday to shave what coordinators hope will be a record number of heads.
       "The inspiration is the children that have gone through and are fighting the battle with cancer," Danaj said. "One day we will win this battle, and what we can do to help makes us feel good about it."
       The fundraiser has events for all ages, including a parade, music, food and raffles with prizes like sports memorabilia and a 60-inch TV. Emotions are expected to run high throughout the day as people are shaved from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
       "You see tears and hugging and then you see people smiling ear-to-ear and giving high fives," Danaj said. "It's such a fun day."
       The Romeo fundraiser has contributed more than $1 million since its inception. Last year's event raised $321,920 and was the sixth largest out of 1,500 fundraisers worldwide.
       "We go against cities like Las Vegas or Charlotte, and here we are in Romeo consistently in the top 10," Danaj said.
       The St. Baldrick's Foundation is the largest non-government provider of grants for childhood cancer research. The foundation has awarded $127 million in grants for research since 2005. Of that, $25 million was granted in 2013.
       Students step up
       Individuals or teams can sign up to raise money. The top team as of March 7 with $16,197 was the Powell Balddogs, made up of students and staff from Powell Middle School. The team set a goal of raising $20,000.
       The Balddogs held an event on March 7 where students could buy raffle tickets to win the chance to shave staff members. Patrick Salembier, a freshly-shorn English teacher, said the St. Baldrick's coordinators have made it easy for anyone to become involved.
       "It's a phenomenal organization, and it's so well put together," he said. "You can easily just step up and be a part of it."
       Salembier said the fundraiser hits close to home for students since the school district has current and graduated students that have battled cancer.
       "For most of them it is just about helping out," he said.
       Among the local kids to be honored are Stanley Ian Babinski, a victim of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma; Noah Costa, who is fighting neuroblastoma; Pietro Pellerito, whose medulloblastoma is in remission; and Drew Pointe, who is undergoing treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
       To increase school involvement, local businesses are sweetening the pot with prizes. Buffalo Wild Wings will cater a lunch for the two schools that earn the most money, while each registered Romeo student has a chance to win an XBox One console with every $50 they raise. The console was provided by Romeo Accountants.
       Danaj said the schools have really shown their support this year, and is glad to see younger kids signing up to take part.
       "That is exciting to see because they're the next generation of people getting involved and raising money," he said.
       Visit or for more information, to register or donate.

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