By Andrew Wroblewski
Years ago, East Northport’s Bob Slingo was scared.
After falling on some hard times, he turned to the church for help. He got it.
When Slingo asked former associate pastor at St. Anthony’s of Padua, John O’Farrell, what he could do in return for that help, the pastor responded with this:
“Get your head shaved,” O’Farrell said.
“That’s very noble,” Slingo recalled saying to him, “but I really like my hair.”
“I know,” said the pastor.
After some thought, Slingo gave in; he shaved his head and formed a longstanding relationship with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – a Northport-founded nonprofit charity that helps fund childhood cancer research through the simple act of head-shaving.
Now, 10 years later, Slingo has shaved his head, alongside other eager participants, in an act of support for kids who often lose their hair during cancer treatments. The “shavees” of St. Baldrick’s hope to inspire friends and family to donate in support of childhood cancer research.
As of 2014, the foundation has raised $38,944,283, according to its official website.
And it’s not just a boys’ club. Take, for example, 15-year-old Madison Adelman of Commack who will have her head shaved for the first time at the Commack High School gym on March 6.
“I’m a little nervous,” Madison, a student at Commack Middle School, said.
“But we know a lot of people who are going to be there,” Maria Adelman, Madison’s mother, said to encourage her daughter.
The Adelman family is a prime example of the families that St. Baldrick’s aims to help. Maria’s brother died from cancer in 2011, her mother in 2012 and another brother in 2013. Madison was extremely close to all of them, Maria said, and she wanted to find a way to prevent others from having to go through what she and her family already has.
“I hate the thought of others going through what we’ve had to,” Maria said. “The way it affects an entire family is terrible.”
More than a decade after its founding, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has held 9,640 events and fundraisers all over the world – and, over the next three weeks, five more fundraisers will spring up across the Huntington township.
One of the original members of the organization, John McKenna, a firefighter for the Northport Fire Department, was a part of the team that hosted the first-ever Northport-based St. Baldrick’s event. Now, 12 years later, he’s in awe of how much the cause has grown.
“It’s amazing to think how an idea that came about amongst a group of friends drinking some iced teas took off so well,” McKenna, 49, said. “We have to do all we can to fund the world’s leading research, not just for kids on Long Island, but for kids all over the world.”
For more information on the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – including how to sign up and donate for any of the events below – visit www.stbaldricks.org .
Upcoming St. Baldrick’s Events
Miller’s Commack Ale House
88 Veterans' Memorial Highway, Commack
Sunday, March 15 from 12-6 p.m.
Seemingly growing more and more each year, Slingo and his team have moved their annual head-shaving from East Northport’s Changing Times to Miller’s Commack Ale House at 88 Veterans’ Memorial Highway in Commack.
“It’s a real fun event,” Slingo said. “Plus, the most important thing, is that we’re helping fight childhood cancer.”
After raising $59,054 and brining out 22 teams with last year’s event, Slingo is hopeful this year even more money will be raised and even more participants will make their way down to help out.
As per usual, Slingo’s team, Fr. Thomas A Judge Knights of Columbus, will be in attendance and hopes to hit this year’s team goal of $11,000.
“One of the things we do with the Knights of Columbus is charity – but particularly charity for kids,” Slingo said.
Commack High School Gym
1 Scholar Ln., Commack
Friday, March 6 from 3-7 p.m.
Five years ago, Commack teachers Lee Tunick, Bill Scaduto and Dan Revera brought St. Baldrick’s to the community and were able to raise $25,000. Last year, after participation surged year-after-year, the Commack community raised $110,000.
But, as Tunick said, it’s not about the money, it’s about the cause.
“We don’t look at it from a monetary standpoint, we look at it as rewarding for everybody to be on the same page,” he said. “But the fact is, that the amount [of money] has been growing and we’ve been getting more people – younger and younger [participants].”
That’s one of Tunick’s greatest feats, he said: getting more and more people to come down and participate with each year’s fundraiser.
“It’s an electric environment,” he said. “The vibe is squeaky clean and wholesome. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but it’s so incredibly rewarding.
Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub
229 Laurel Ave., Northport
Saturday, March 14 from 12-7 p.m.
Northport-East Northport School District
Laurel Avenue School (Brosnan Building)
158 Laurel Ave., Northport
Friday, March 13 from 5-8 p.m.
John McKenna was there for the very-first Northport-based St. Baldrick’s event 12 years ago – in fact, as one of the founding members, he’s one of the reasons why the foundation exists at all. On Monday, McKenna, a Northport resident, said the people of Northport still embrace St. Baldrick’s as their own – in fact, they’ve become a model for other towns are over the U.S.
“Northport consistently has the largest event. It’s become a target for all other events across the country – everyone says they want to be as big as Northport,” he said.
The cause has gotten so big throughout Northport that organizers now sport two events, one for the adults and one for the kids – Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub and within the Northport-East Northport School District.
“Every kid in school today knows somebody that’s been affected by cancer, either someone who is in treatment or that’s, unfortunately, succumbed to it,” McKenna said. “It’s just really nice to see the kids come out and support the cause.”
Both of the fundraisers have set a goal of $100,000 and, as of press time Tuesday, the Napper Tandy’s event had raised $37,793 and the school district, $35,528.
Walt Whitman High School
301 West Hills Road, Huntington Station
Wednesday, March 18
For the eighth-straight year, the Wildcats of the South Huntington School District will head to Walt Whitman High School in support of the St. Baldrick’s foundation.
Jaime Rogers, a science teacher at Whitman, has organized the school’s fundraiser, and over eight years, South Huntington has raised a total sum of $100,000.
This year, the Wildcats are adding a little something extra to the cause.
“We’re trying to do a competition between the grades in the high school,” he said. “We’re hoping to have more community involvement and get the sum up even higher with more participants.”