FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Five years after losing her son to cancer, Fairfield resident Jessica Gerber is still working to help to find a cure to honor his memory.
Gerber is teaming with Osborn Hill School and its Cub Scout Troop to hold the fifth annual St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event to raise money for a charity that funds pediatric cancer research.
“Initially, it was great because they supported Teddy and us and my other children. It was really helpful at the time,” Gerber said of the the group. “Later on, it just became a continuation of that but in a different way.”
The first year was great for Teddy, she said, because everyone was getting their head shaved so he didn’t feel so different. They raised more than $100,000 that year, and the amounts has grown ever since. Last year, Osborn Hill lost another student to brain cancer, and the community dedicated the event to her.
The hope this year is that by Friday, March 21, when the event is held, the team will have raised more than $500,000 for pediatric cancer research. By Monday evening, the team had raised nearly $65,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Osborn Hill isn’t the only place holding St. Baldrick’s events. At Stratfield School, volunteers have raised more than $235,000 since they started shaving heads in 2009. On March 5, more than 100 students, teachers and parents shaved or had their hair cut during this year's event.
“It is truly an incredible experience, one that you remember for the rest of your life,” said Fairfield Warde High School Senior Brian Kerrigan. He has been participating in the event since he was in elementary school and has continued to help spread the word.
For the parents whose children have died from cancer, the event means so much.
“Your actions really count,” said Melanie Carvallo, who lost her son, Stratfield student Adam Carvallo, to cancer last year.
Nearly all of the money raised by the head-shaving events goes straight to St. Baldrick’s and to research; a small portion goes to pay salaries.
“It’s just been such a fantastic way to raise money and help the community feel better and heal,” Gerber said.
A third St. Baldrick's event is scheduled at Tomlinson Middle School on April 6.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, based in California, is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives, according to its website.
It raised $34 million nationwide last year and has raised more than $20 million so far this year.