Ulster Hose members, and many others, to lop locks to help kids with cancer

(Elope Elope/Flickr)

Members of Ulster Hose No. 5 are raising money and awareness for childhood cancer research as part of the second Ulster County St. Baldrick’s Day fundraising event. Local groups and individuals will have their heads shaved in solidarity with children living with cancer at the event on Sunday, March 5.

“It’s a family event,” said Assistant Chief Mathew Molinaro, team captain of Ulster Hose’s fundraising group; in addition to the 20 volunteers, another 10 firefighters have signed on as support. “Everybody will probably have their wives or girlfriends there to support us. This really hits home once you start to think about it. We’re all very lucky our families haven’t been stricken with this right now. We’re very lucky we have a great group of guys and the support of our families and community behind us.”

Gloria Darmanin, volunteer event organizer for the Ulster County fundraiser, said there are currently 137 shavees, a bump from 109 in 2015. The challenge will be whether or not the event will raise more money than in 2015, when total donations came to $89,859. As of press time, the official total is $31,393, though that number is likely to rise significantly as some participants haven’t updated their totals on the official event website. Of the 20 members of Ulster Hose volunteering to be shavees, only 12 are listed on the website. The team’s total on the website is $2,550, good enough for fifth place on the list.

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“Our team goal was $1,000, and we’ve surpassed that,” said Molinaro, who noted that Ulster Hose had donated $1,000 on its own. “The point of it is is that everybody is going to sit together and show we stand behind these kids with cancer. This is a 100 percent team event. Without all these guys we’d be nothing.”

Darmanin said the original St. Baldrick’s Day event had humble roots. “I put our first event together in March of 2015,” she said. “I signed up with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in the hopes of getting at least five people to shave their heads and raise a few hundred dollars.”

After the overwhelming success of that first year, the 2017 event is following its course. Included among the teams are the Ulster PBA, Kingston PBA, Glasco Fire Department, Centerville Fire Company, the Kingston Professional Firefighters Association, the Saugerties youth Hockey Association, the Saugerties Stallions, and Grant D. Morse Elementary in Saugerties.

“It means the world to me,” said Darmanin. “I don’t think our volunteers or shavees could ever grasp what their commitment to raising money and awareness is accomplishing. With so much tension between people these days, it doesn’t matter who you are; we all have this in common. We have men, women, boys and girls ‘Braving the Shave.’ My 11-year-old niece lost another classmate in 2015 to cancer. She is shaving her head this year. You form these friendships with complete strangers over this unique experience. We aren’t your average fund-raiser where you might walk a 5K and it’s over. After someone has shaved their heads, the awareness keeps going and going.”

Darmanin said she was inspired to start the Ulster County event when she learned of the funding need for childhood cancer research.

“Childhood cancer is significantly underfunded,” she said. “Every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. Every day seven children will die from cancer in the U.S.A. I have lived in Saugerties for eight years, in those eight years I know of eight children elementary age or younger diagnosed with cancer in Saugerties alone. Four have already passed away. This doesn’t include the countless others in our surrounding towns. I’ve seen many more well known charities hosting events but nothing specifically for childhood cancer. I’m also committed to only working with volunteer driven organizations where the money is going to the actual cause and not to employees. St. Baldrick’s gives the most amount of grants besides the U.S. government for childhood cancer. You can sit and read the GoFundMe pages of local families on Facebook or viral stories; perhaps you will cry, perhaps you will scroll right by. I can’t be one of those people. I can’t wait for someone to ‘Do something about that.’ If not us, then who?”

The Ulster County St. Baldrick’s Day event will take place at the Frank D. Greco Senior Center in Saugerties on Sunday, March 5 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., and will include family-friendly events, raffles, a bake sale, music and face-painting.

“I know it means a lot to these families who are actually on the battlegrounds with their children,” said Darmanin. “We have 12 honored families who will be attendance. They will look around and know that no one fights alone. Hair grows back; kids don’t.”

To register for the event or to make a donation, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/saugerties or Facebook at www.facebook.com/bravetheshavesaugerties.

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