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Why one man goes bald for St. Baldrick's annual fundraiser

The author, Jim McKeever gets shaved at the 2010 St. Baldrick's fundraising event at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub.

The author, Jim McKeever gets shaved at the 2010 St. Baldrick's fundraising event at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub.

By Jim McKeever

On Sunday March 3, Central New York‘s population of bald heads will grow by more than 400. That‘s how many of us – men, women and children – will gather at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub in Armory Square for the annual St. Baldrick‘s fundraiser for pediatric cancer research.

The baldness is to show solidarity for kids with cancer who lose their hair from chemotherapy treatments.

Watch a video about St. Baldrick's Day

St. Baldrick‘s Day is always an emotional day at Kitty Hoynes. Yes, there‘s a somewhat festive atmosphere, a lot of rubbing of newly cold domes, and lots of hugs and gratitude for young lives saved by treatment.

There are plenty of tears as well.

Look on the walls at the photos and names of local children who have lost the cancer battle. Listen to Central New York moms and dads whose children have died in their arms as they get up and speak about the importance of keeping up the fight. It‘s too late for their child, their family, but not for others.

Other than kids fighting cancer, these are the bravest people I‘ve ever seen.

When I started working at Upstate five years ago, a friend of my sons was being treated here, so I signed up for St. Baldrick‘s in his honor.

We lost Matt in 2011 at age 19. The year before that, we lost another young man, my buddy Wayne, at age 11. So I keep going back, and going bald, because I can‘t NOT do it. This year, like last year, I‘m losing my hair in honor of Sabella, a patient at Golisano Children‘s Hospital who has been fighting leukemia almost half her life. She‘s 3. One of the pediatric cancer doctors, Jody Sima, MD, is also losing her hair this year.

Despite what some folks have said, getting my head shaved isn‘t brave. It‘s hair. I don‘t need it. Going bald is the very least I can do, besides nagging my friends, running buddies, family and co-workers to donate.

So, if you have some time on March 3 (the shaving begins at 10:30 a.m. and goes on all day) come on out and see Central New Yorkers do what we do best – help others. In one day we‘ll raise more than a third of a million dollars to help kids beat cancer.

In Central New York, more than 70 children are diagnosed with cancer every year. Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes.

Central New York raises a huge amount of money for St. Baldrick‘s every year – the Kitty Hoynes event was in the Top 5 again in 2012, raising $371,888. Some of that comes back to Upstate cancer researchers in grants from the St. Baldrick‘s Foundation. Since 2005, Upstate has received more than $350,000 to help pay for research and enroll children in clinical trials.

Details about the St. Baldrick's fundraiser in Syracuse.

Watch a video about the event.

Learn about the St. Baldrick's grants to Upstate.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Karol Kerr, pediatric hematologist/oncologist.

Jim McKeever regularly writes the With Distinction blog, focusing on students at Upstate Medical University.