The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Clinton

August 24, 2013

L'Kings shave heads for a cause

CLINTON — CLINTON — Having already starred in a national ad campaign for Wahl Clipper Corporation, certain LumberKings players have taken extra pride in their grooming.

"Hair's kind of like a toy to me," shortstop Brock Hebert said while combing a hand through long dark brown curls. This particular do was six months in the making. "You let it grow out and play with it. When you're done playing, you let it go."

Yet, proud as Hebert was of his locks, he found it easy to join teammates and staff shedding them.

Members of the Sterling, Ill.-based Wahl company, the HY Connect advertising agency and the St. Baldricks charity foundation were on hand Friday as nine members of the LumberKings organization trimmed all the way down to their scalps. While being filmed, pitchers Charles Kaalekahi and Tyler Pike — clubhouse barbers — took turns using Wahl razors and sharing laughs along Ashford University Field's third-base line.

All of it for a show of solidarity for a 7-year-old fan from DeWitt. As promised by LumberKings media personnel, players shaved their heads while supporting a $2,500 fundraising goal for St. Baldrick's, the second-leading children's cancer research funder in the United States, next to the government.

"My hair hasn't been this short since I was a baby," Hebert said during his trim.

Joining him were teammates Pike, Kaalekahi, Dario Pizzano, Tyler Marlette, George Mieses and Steven Ewing, assistant coach Mike Kinkade and athletic performance specialist Ryan White. Ewing arrived in Clinton three days ago after spending most of the season with the Everett (Wash.) AquaSox. He said he signed up without hesitation.

"You got to do it when the opportunity presents itself," Ewing said.

And, after each haircut, the players rose from the chair to fanfare from early-to-arrive fans and the group. The loudest applause came from DeWitt native Wade Burken, whose son Joseph (also on hand) recently overcame chemotherapy.

"His doctor gets money from St. Baldrick's to treat him," Wade Burken said. Joseph received a double dose of good news this week when he not only realized he would join the LumberKings on the field, but his doctors also told him that the tumor in his brain was shrinking.

"You just have to support it," Wade Burken added.

Joseph Burken happens to idolize the LumberKings, and his mom, Julie, said he relates to the pro ballplayers. The Burkens said the tumor, though shrinking, couldn't be removed. The non-contact nature of baseball makes it one of the few sports Joseph is able to play.

"This means a lot as a parent raising a kid with cancer," Julie Burken said.

Kaalekahi originally signed up for the "barber only" role, and teammates were doubtful he would part ways with his long brown strands. He surprised everyone when he sat down the clippers and sat in the chair. Bald is a new look.

"At first I wasn't going to do it," Kaalekahi said after Friday's game against Wisconsin. "Pike kind of peer-pressured me. It was for a good cause so I was OK with it."

Asked if he had second thoughts hours later, Kaalekahi said he hadn't regretted the decision.

"My head's a lot cooler now," he said. "Hair grows back."

Not only did the LumberKings top their $2,500 goal, but general manager Ted Tornow said the organization kicked in $500, bringing the fundraising total to more than $3,000. That money will combine with the $32 million St. Baldrick's has already raised in 2013. The entire event was documented by HY, who is making another commercial after the success of the original Wahl TV spots.

Joseph Burken got in on the action too, shaving Marlette's (formerly) orange head. At the end of the 45-minute hair clinic, seven bald heads gathered around the cancer survivor for a team photo.

Hebert removed Joseph's cap revealing a healthy crop of blonde hair 10 months in the making following the end of the survivor's chemo treatment last October.

"Now you're the only one with hair," Hebert said.

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