The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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March 8, 2014

No qualms about 60 shaved heads for St. Baldrick's

DEWITT -- Hair says a lot to people. By shaving it down to their scalps Saturday more than 60 volunteers made a statement of their own.

Clinton resident Kelli Smith attended DeWitt’s Just Irish Enough St. Baldrick’s fundraiser last year and said she was deeply moved by what she saw. Cancer affects everyone, Smith said, and going bald to raise money impacts more than people’s appearances.

Smith had no issue doing so herself, this year, even though it meant losing 14 inches of her black locks.

“I’ve been preparing to do this for a year,” she said. Smith also raised the most money among head shavers -- $2,450 all going to children’s cancer research. “What really got to me was all the testimonials of people who have had children who have had cancer. If that were my child, I would want everyone to do anything they could to help here. So I decided that day that this was something I’m going to do.”

Hundreds jammed into the DeWitt Community Center to watch others do the same. The event featured a parade around the block, led by 7-year-old local cancer survivor Joseph Burken. By Sunday, event organizers had a goal to raise $40,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Those funds make a major difference according to families who have both won and lost cancer battles. Burken’s parents, Wade and Julie, detailed their son’s difficult journey over the past two years, testifying about the difference that donations make in the fight.

Over recent months, the Burkens received news that the mass inside Joseph’s brain is shrinking thanks to treatment like chemotherapy. The location of the tumor makes it inoperable since surgery could cause significant brain damage. The Burkens said they’re one of the lucky families. If Joseph’s treatment failed, he’d be left with a bleak outlook.

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