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The Fight against Childhood Cancer

St. Baldricks and the journey it’s made.

Back in 1999, two men decided to shave their heads in order to raise funds for children going through cancer; with it being around St. Patricks day, they decided to name their foundation “St. Baldricks.” It started as 19 people coming together at a pub in Manhattan in 2000, to shave their heads, raising $104,000 in funds to help the research of the Childrens Oncology Group. St. Baldricks has turned into a globally recognized charity that has raised up to $342 million to date.

Assistant Superintendent of North Canton City Schools, Dave Pilati, first became an active participant in helping to raise funds for the St. Baldricks foundation in 2008, when he attended the local St. Baldricks event with his family. He was inspired to join in the support for St. Baldricks when he heard about a family and how they started the local event.

“The family that started the local event in 2003 had a daughter who was diagnosed with cancer when she was a freshman at GlenOak High School. Her name was Abbey Foltz, and she eventually passed away shortly before she was to start her sophomore year at Ohio State University in August 2000,” Pilati said.  “I worked in Plain Local (the school district that includes GlenOak High School) from 1996 to 2015, and although I never had Abbey as a student, I knew who she was and came to know her parents pretty well in the years following her death.”

The Foltz family became a pillar in the St. Baldricks foundation, showing the people of Stark county why this foundation is so important and leading them to show their support for the fight against childhood cancer.

“Then in 2010, I decided to shave my head for the first time to get involved to a greater level just because I had so much respect for Mr. and Mrs. Foltz who had taken what was a tragedy in their lives and turned it into something that provided hope to so many others by helping to raise money to fund research for cures for childhood cancer.  In the years following 2010, my wife and I continued to attend the event each year and donate a silent auction item,” Pilati said. “Now fast forward to 2018, and I work at North Canton and our district decided to get involved by putting together a small team of staff and students who participated as shavees in the local event.  I did not shave that year, but I did make the decision to help lead our district’s involvement starting in 2019 as I saw an opportunity for our students and staff to make a huge impact in our community and to help teach our students the value of getting involved in their community.”

Whether it’s from donating or shaving your head, people from all over North Canton have been showing their support; The fourth North Canton Racquet Club St. Baldrick’s 2024 event raised $259,389, surpassing their goal of $250,000. North Canton has become #4 in the world of total money raised for St. Baldricks and there’s no doubt that the Foltz family and the memory of Abbey Foltz has greatly impacted the support North Canton continues to provide for the fight against childhood cancer.

Both locally and globally, the growing foundation that is St. Baldricks has expanded research and resources with each donation. In 2015, there were only two drugs that were approved specifically to help children with cancer; until research supported by St. Baldricks discovered a new drug. One that actually improved the cure rate of patients with a high risk of neuroblastoma.  Taylor Sowers, a counselor at Hoover High school, talks about some of the results that have come from St. Baldricks.

“I think they generate a lot of Grant writing, I guess you would say, from St. Baldricks and there have been a lot of things that have come about because of that. Now, there have been more research opportunities, they have employed more doctors, new technology has been founded and I believe that since the time that it had been started, they’ve made significant progress on helping support families that have children with childhood cancer,” Sowers said.

A big part of St. Baldricks has been the hair that’s been shaved and all the shavees that attend each year. For some, shaving the head would be a hard decision to make; for Sowers, the end goal has been what matters the most. A little bit of hair is not gonna stop him from showing his support towards the fight against childhoood cancer.

“At the beginning, it was very nerve wracking. Number one: What’s my head gonna look like, cause you never know; If you have hair, you’ll never see the shape of your head. What are my students gonna think about it and how long is it gonna take for my hair to grow back. Those were like, my three big things. But those three things seem very small compared to the actual reason for doing it and so I just kept going with, helping kids with cancer and helping families with cancer and so those three things mean nothing,” Sowers said. “It was not a hard decision to make, especially when you get the district’s support behind you and having each building formulating a team. It wasn’t that diffiuclt to wanna jump into it.”

St. Baldricks holds a special meaning in many peoples lives; some being personally affected by childhood cancer, some having lost loved ones of childhood cancer and some just want to see to it that there becomes a cure for childhood cancer, freeing all those who have had to live with it of the pain it brings.

“It means me and thousands of other individuals making a very small sacrifice such as asking people to donate money and each of us having our heads shaved.  But when we all do it collectively, we are able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars right here in Stark County and millions of dollars around the world which hopefully is helping to contribute to finding more cures so that one day any child who is diagnosed with cancer will still live a long and prosperous life,” Pilati said. “Ultimately, St. Baldrick’s has provided many children the opportunity to become cured of their cancer or at least live longer–which has provided hope to families.”

St. Baldricks brings together a great deal of people from all walks of life, from all around the world, with the one goal of helping children live in the best and healthiest way possible. When there is a will there is a way: The mortal enemy that is cancer is truly no match against the people that this foundation has gained the support of.

“I don’t want to see a 13 year old kid or a five year old kid lose their best friend, it’s just something that I think is challenging for the kids to understand,” Sowers said. “The reason why i’ve always done it, is I’ve always had the adage of ‘no child should ever have to lose their best friend.’”

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About the Contributor
Isabella Taki
Isabella Taki, News Editor/Public Relations Manager
My name is Bella and this will be my second year on staff. My partner in crime, Ryland Most, and I plan to make this year on staff one of best, with new and amazing things planned for the paper!