More than 100 residents and tourists in Las Vegas had their heads shaved Saturday morning to raise money for childhood cancer research.
Local artists served as barbers, shaving mohawks, foot-length curls, and beards for the St Baldrick’s Foundation, endowment‘s 13th Annual Brave the Shave outside of Nine Fine Irishmen in New York-New York.
“It’s a great cause that I think everyone can support,” said organizer of this year’s event, Jason Wooge. “Whether you’ve been personally affected by cancer or know someone who has, it’s a very sad truth. It’s something we can all stand behind.”
Wooge, MGM Resorts International’s director of retail operations, shaved his head for St. Baldrick’s on Tuesday, but his two children, Noah, 10, and Seth, 7, waited until Saturday.
Wooge said his 10-year-old was nervous about being made fun of by other kids at school, so Wooge wrote Noah’s teachers a note explaining that he was raising money for cancer research. Teachers read the note to the class and explained why Noah would be bald on Monday, and several teachers donated money.
“By shaving your head you’re really showing solidarity with the kids who are going through this,” Wooge said.
dr Kenneth Misch of St. Rose Pediatrics opened Saturday’s ceremony after the Las Vegas Emerald Society Pipe Band marched onto the stage and played the bagpipes. He thanked the contestants for the money raised and their decision to drastically change their appearance.
“I can tell you from working with many of these children who are sadly living with cancer that what you are doing today by being here means so much to these children and to our community,” he said.
Among the 125 people scheduled to lose their hair on Saturday were at least 80 MGM Resorts employees, according to Wooge. Others could also register for the event.
Stewart Patchefsky, general manager of the mansion at MGM, said he wanted his children to get involved in charity work. Patchefsky’s five sons, Max, 17, Zachary, 13, Frankie, 11, Michael, 8, and Nicholas, 4, sat next to their father on stage and said goodbye to their hair.
“I want to teach my kids to care and love others and to look for the good in the world,” said Melissa Patchefsky, standing next to her two daughters, who got to go home with their hair untouched.
New York-New York finance director Erik Vela said if the crowd could come up with $150 while he was on stage, he would let them shave his beard. In order to shave his thin mustache, his family had to raise another $100 for the cause.
Cash Garcia, 38, sat next to his nephew, Xander Martinez, 9, while the two got a shave. Garcia has attended the fundraiser five years in a row, and this year he sported a foot-high mohican.
“I lost a friend to cancer in high school and my brother-in-law survived cancer,” Garcia said onstage.
The fundraiser came to Las Vegas in 2007 through Brian and Lynn McMullan, owners of McMullan’s Irish Pub. The McMullans lost their two-year-old daughter, Kyra, to a brain tumor earlier this year.
On Saturday, the McMullans stood among dozens of families, tourists and anxious shavers.
MGM Resorts President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said Saturday that he plans to hold the event on MGM premises and that he is proud of the employees who choose to attend each year.
“I think it’s part of our culture who and what we are,” Hornbuckle said. “We’ve been supporting this thing for over a decade and couldn’t be more excited to be here.”
For more information or to donate, visit stbaldricks.org.