Firefighters drop their locks for charity
By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Contributor
Last Saturday at Pioneer Park, local firefighters had their heads shaved to raise money for cancer research. The St. Baldrick’s Day head shaving event, an annual St Patrick’s Day fundraising tradition for area firefighters, raised awareness and more than $25,000 for children with cancer.
This year’s event had special significance for Benjamin Flagel, one of two masters of ceremonies at the event. Flagel said that raising awareness about cancer had become personal after the death of a friend’s niece, and the loss of a fellow firefighter. “We lost our battalion chief (Phil Rounds) last year and of course he’s not a kid, but cancer’s cancer.”
Justin Boddy, a captain with the North Star Volunteer Fire Department, has organized the St. Baldrick’s Day event locally for the past four years. Boddy said that the event was for the public, not just for firefighters. Kristi Downing, a local mother who has raised $2,000 in donations so far, volunteered to have her head shaved because it seemed like the right thing to do. “To give back something. To experience something that I’m lucky enough to be able to do by choice,” she said, referring to the many cancer patients who lose their hair because of chemotherapy.
Kate Wozniak, a UAF student in Fire Sciences, was at the event to give moral support to her firefighting friends, as well as to make a donation to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Was she going to have her head shaved? “I like my hair attached to my head the way it is,” she said. “If I raise five-hundred thousand dollars, then I’ll cut my hair,” she said jokingly, saying that she plans to donate her hair to Locks-of-Love (a similar charity that collects hair for making wigs for chemotherapy patients) at a later date. Ryan Groeneweg, a firefighter with the University Fire Department, remarked on the unity of the event. “We all do it together, it’s a fun deal for a good cause.”