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Annual fundraiser benefits St. Baldrick’s
March 17, 2017

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AUSTINTOWN - Hair tumbled down as the money total climbed Saturday at the St. Baldrick's Head Shaving Fundraiser.

Dozens of people committed to shaving their heads at Austintown Plaza to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.

More than $16,000 already had been collected as the first participants went under the electric razors.

Volunteer organizer Eric Broz said, "We're way ahead of last year," when more than $19,000 in donations was collected. "We had a very successful online campaign, a lot more community buy in, which is always nice."

With a basket raffle, 50/50 raffle and donations collected on site from those coming to hear the 16 area bands and solo acts performing inside O'Donold's Irish Pub & Grille and the outdoor tent, Broz expected to raise more than $22,000 this year.

Kat Fitzgerald, 25, of Warren, went from the stage to the chair, performing as Crash the Great and then shaving her dyed locks. Fitzgerald performed at the fundraiser five years ago with her college band but "chickened out" when it came to getting shaved.

This time she smiled broadly as friends and family cheered the falling hair and her father, Victor Russell, serenaded her with Sinead O'Connor songs.

Nick Bellas, 57, of Warren, was another first-time participant.

"I have a lot of family and friends that have been hit by cancer," he said. "Put your money where your mouth is and try to do something positive."

He admitted to being a little nervous about what he'd look like with a shaved head.

"It'll probably be a little humbling, but I have the opportunity to do it as an option," he said. "The others have to do it and they are self-conscious, not only about their looks, but their health condition."

With temperatures in the teens, volunteers from Sports Clips of Boardman were shaving heads inside an empty storefront in the plaza instead of outdoors.

Tyler McBride, 21, of Girard said his freshly bald head felt good.

"But I haven't gone outside yet," he said.

McBride hadn't cut his hair in three years. Some of it was in dreads and hung down to his shoulders.

"I shaved it before I grew it out," he said. "It's just something I like to do now and again. It's nice to be able to do it here to help out."

Rebecca Martin, 38, of Warren was drawn to the cause but she also saw it as a way to get rid of damaged hair from years of dying.

"I decided to shave it off and start fresh," she said. "I've had different colored hair since seventh grade."

Her son Byron, 12, watched closely while she was getting shaved but declared when it was over, "She's still mommy."

Donations will continue to be collected online until July at www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/7890/2017.

"What's great about that is these people will show up for work Monday, and their coworkers will say, 'Wow, you shaved your head,'" said Broz, whose hair and beard were dyed green in advance of getting shaved. "They'll tell them they did it for charity, and when they ask, 'Can I still donate?,' they can."

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