By Ryan Kaczmarski
On a day usually reserved for parades, green beer and public intoxication, the Rocky River community rallied around two of its families and raised over $80,000 toward children’s cancer research.
Last Saturday, Eric Haddad (former St. Ignatius and Purdue University star running back) and his wife Amy, along with neighbors Brian and Julie Haylor of Westhaven Lane in Rocky River, turned the annual St. Patrick’s Day party at the Rocky River Brewing Co. (RRBC) on Center Ridge Road, in Rocky River, into a “St. Baldrick’s Day” event, where people donate money and have their heads shaved in solidarity with the children who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments.
Both families have a child fighting cancer in Shane Haddad and Alexis Haylor, and are seeking to raise money to find a cure for the childhood disease.
“In November of 2007, our three-year-old diagnosed (with cancer), and our good friends brought St. Baldrick’s to Cleveland 10 years ago, so my husband started shaving (his head) in 2008 and has shaved every year since,” Julie Haylor said. “This year, we decided that since (the Haddads) are also fighting the battle, Eric thought it would be great if we brought a St. Baldrick’s event to the west side (of Cleveland), so it could be more family-friendly than the one held downtown. Even though the downtown event is amazing, we thought this location would bring out the community of Rocky River to support it.”
“This event is a great rallying cry for the community,” Eric Haddad said. “More than anything else, having the community get together – there’s so much support that we’ve felt, and the Haylors before us – is great. We have a lot of momentum out here in our first year (at the RRBC), but truthfully, we’re out here with one goal in mind, and that’s to raise as much money as we possibly can for research funds for childhood cancer.”
The community showed up at the RRBC, and it was an enthusiastic crowd, which made owner Gary Cintron very proud.
“Eric Haddad, who’s a good friend of mine, came in and asked if we were interested in doing a West Side event,” Cintron said. “They’ve been going down to A.J. Rocco’s (in the Caxton building downtown) for the last two years for this event, but when they asked, I immediately said yes. The Haddad family is a great family, and it’s a really worthy cause. It’s something we really needed to do as a community, to back this up and try to help children’s cancer research.”
On March 17, 2000, reinsurance executives John Bender, Tim Kenny and Enda McDonnell turned their industry’s St. Patrick’s Day party into a head-shaving event to benefit kids with cancer. Their 20 “shavee” recruits planned to raise $17,000. Instead, they raised over $104,000.
The movement quickly grew into the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research, and today the St. Baldrick’s Foundation funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any other organization except for the U.S. government.
“They raise funds and give those funds out to fellowships and research grants,” Brian Haylor said. “When our daughter was being treated, one of her oncologists was given a grant from St. Baldrick’s to do specific research. All the money being raised today is going out specifically to childhood cancer research.”
The Haddads and Haylors named their fundraising team the “Westhaven Warriors” in honor of their immediate community.
“The reason we named our team the Westhaven Warriors last year was because we feel that we are a little bit at ‘ground zero’ with respect of support, and having (cancer) there on our street,” Eric Haddad said. “It started on our street with the Haylors standing up and asking, ‘How can we help?’”
Being the first year the RRBC is holding the event, no one really knew how big the turnout would be.
“Depending on what the turnout is this year, maybe we can turn this into a block-party in the back parking lot for next year,” Cintron said. “Hopefully we can turn this into something three times as large as what we’ve seen today.”
There were about 80 people signed up to shave their heads, but more were expected as the day went along.
“The support today for the Haddads and the Haylors is staggering,” Cintron added. “Their initial goal today was about $30,000, and as of 3:30 p.m., there is over $80,000 already donated. I was told by the people from St. Baldrick’s that if we raised around $50,000, it was a lot for a first-time event.”
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation raises money all year long, and can be reached on-line at www.stbaldricks.org or by phone at 888-889-BALD (2253).