Shaving heads for cancer

In 2007, Dan Witmer had no idea that bringing St. Baldrick’s Day to Oswego State and Oswego County would turn into what it has today.

“Every year since then its just gotten bigger and bigger,” Witmer said.

St. Baldrick’s Day is an event with a goal to raise awareness and funding to fight childhood cancer. The seventh annual St. Baldrick’s Day was held Wednesday night at its new location in the Lake Ontario Conference and Event Center. The event is made up of groups who raise money and then shave their heads to raise awareness.

Groups from all over the county, including the Oswego Firefighters Association, the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department and many more law enforcement agencies throughout the area participated. More than 20 groups in total participated this year.

Witmer was the head coach of the Oswego State lacrosse team for 28 years, stepping down at the conclusion of the 2010 season. He led Oswego State to national recognition during the 1990s and was the 2009 SUNYAC men’s lacrosse Coach of the Year.

“One of my alums called me up from downstate New York,” Witmer said. “‘Coach, I’ve been doing this for a couple years now and its just unbelievable and you got to get the team involved.’”

Witmer’s lacrosse captains decided to take on the challenge and plan the event, which has grown substantially since its inception in 2007. The first event had around 30 to 35 shavees and raised $11,000. Wednesday’s event had between 180 to 190 shavees registered before the event even started. The event rose well over last year’s total of around $72,000 raised.

The event used to be held in the Oswego State food court, but outgrew the location. Lake Ontario Conference and Event Center owner George Broadwell was at last year’s event and saw that it was in need of a bigger venue.

“[He] saw what was going on and said you can have my place for free anytime you want it,” Witmer said.

Witmer always welcomes newcomers like Oswego State student Trevor Roorda to the event. Roorda was the leader of Team Julia, completing his goal of raising over $1,000.

“I put together Team Julia with a couple buddies here at SUNY Oswego,” Roorda said. “In honor of one of my best friends from back home, Julia Bunce, (who) passed away from leukemia.”

Roorda, who is from Herkimer, N.Y., gathered together family and friends, including Bunce’s mother, holding a fundraiser for the event at The Shed earlier in the month and collected whatever he could to meet the goal. Roorda credits social networking for helping raise money.

“The best way I could come up with for raising money was getting people to donate a little at a time,” Roorda said. “A lot of times when people talk about donating they think they have to donate a lot, but really if you just ask people like [for] a dollar or a penny. Every penny counts.”

Roorda said Bunce was the type who was very thankful for the help of others.

“She’d probably hate the attention, but she’d be appreciative,” Roorda said.

With all the money raised through fundraising and auctions at the event, the teams were crowding the conference center ready to get their head shaved.

“I’m excited,” Roorda said. “I can’t say that about everybody here, people might be nervous, but I’m definitely excited.”

Roorda’s teammate Jay Lanzafame had a more simple response.

“I’m here to get my head shaved,” Lanzafame said.

When it came down to the end of the night, Witmer joined the hundreds of shavees with their matching haircuts.

“I’m really big on leading by example,” Witmer said. “And if I’m going to ask someone to do something, I’m going to do it myself too.”

Trevor Roorda, seen here shaving his head, was the leader of Team Julia in honor of his best friend Julia Bunce who recently passed away from leukemia. (Patrick Malowski | The Oswegonian)
Trevor Roorda, seen here shaving his head, was the leader of Team Julia in honor of his best friend Julia Bunce who recently passed away from leukemia. (Patrick Malowski | The Oswegonian)