By Chris Mellides
Students and faculty gathered at Walt Whitman High School on Wednesday to participate in the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation charity fundraiser to benefit childhood cancer research, raising $33,000 as of deadline.
Aside from accepting cash donations during the event, those who donated and volunteered were given the option to join others in a shavathon to show solidarity for children and young people stricken with cancer.
An idea founded in Northport, St. Baldrick’s is an international, volunteer-driven charity that has raised over $178 million since 2005 in research grants aimed at finding cures for childhood cancer through the simple act of head-shavings, which are hosted by communities all over the world in 26 countries.
Since 2006, Walt Whitman High School has raised roughly $150,000 for St. Baldrick’s, and this year the total in online and in-person donations is expected to exceed $40,000, according to Jamie Rodgers, a Walt Whitman High School faculty member and lead organizer for the day’s event.
“Currently we’ve raised $33,000 online and that does not include cash donations,” Rodgers said. She added that each year cash donations tend are around $10,000-$15,000.
“It’s a great event and all of the proceeds go to childhood cancer research, and it grows every year,” Rodgers said. “We should have over 120 people getting shaved this year.”
While the charity fundraiser has been going steady at the school for the last decade, this was the first year that South Huntington Teachers Association President Dennis Callahan was asked to participate.
Callahan said that, in the spirit of fun, it was only fair for him to challenge South Huntington Superintendent of Superintendent David Bennardo to a friendly competition where they went head to head to see which team could earn the most donations for St. Baldrick’s.
“Once I made the decision to do this I thought it would be really fun to have a little friendly competition,” Callahan said. “It really is a made up competition because we’re all on the same team, but it just adds a little extra spice to the whole situation.”
Like Callahan, this is Bennardo’s first year participating in the fundraiser, and given the outpouring of volunteer support and generous donations, said it might not be his last time taking part in the annual event.
“It’s just fantastic to be part of something where everyone collectively is behind a great cause together,” Bennardo said. “There are so many times now in our politics and our country where you see so many people separated and divided, and when a good cause brings them together you get renewed hope.
“I’m part of that hope today, which feels good.”