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Chester County Press

Avondale Fire Department hosts head-shaving benefit for cancer research

04/11/2017 09:36AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Every two minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer.
One in five children will not survive the diagnosis, and those who do survive often suffer long-term effects from treatment too harsh for their developing bodies.
On April 8, the Avondale Fire Department and more than 200 firefighters, medical emergency staff and their families did their best to bring comfort, hope and vital cancer research to these children.
Hair stylists from several area boutiques and salons donated their time to shear the heads of 52 volunteers who participated in a head-shaving event that raised $17,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.
“A few weeks ago, I wasn't sure we were going to even raise $5,000,” said co-organizer Andrew O'Donnell, a part-time paramedic for Brandywine Hospital Medic 93 and a full-time transport flight nurse for the Critical Care Transport Team at the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. “We were just so glad we received the support from those who believed that we could make a difference. It's not just about us getting our heads shaved. We wanted our families to be a part of it.”
O'Donnell, who co-organized the event with fellow paramedic Tammy Whiteman, said that the head-shaving theme grew out of his commitment to education for firefighters, EMS staff and pre-hospital nurses throughout Chester County and beyond.  For the past several years, the event has also given attendees the opportunity to give back to the communities they serve.
“Instead of our attendees paying a registration fee, we've had them bring gifts for all different age groups, such as the time we gave to a women's shelter in Coatesville,” he said. “At the end of last year's con-ed consortium, something went off in my head that made me think, 'How can we turn a good day into a great day?'
“In today's society, cancer plagues us all, whether its a family member or a friend,” O'Donnell said. “The members of the EMS groups in this community take care of a lot of kids who are battling cancer. So I thought, how about we give back that way?”
St. Baldrick’s head-shaving events began in 2000 as a challenge between businessmen, to more than 1,200 events in 2016, raising critical funds for childhood cancer research. Events take place in pubs, restaurants, schools, churches, parks, malls, military bases and firehouses. Since 2005, the head-shaving events have raised more than $200 million for childhood cancer research.
The Avondale Fire Department event also raised $1,000 for the Chester County Hero Fund, which provides financial assistance to the widows, children, and families of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics who have either been killed or seriously injured in the line of duty.
The event also made a $1,000 contribution to Team CMMD, a running and cycling group that raises money for families who have been affected by cancer. 
The following individuals and groups contributed to the event: the stylists from Linda Hair Techniques, Ruffini's Barber Shop, Beth Bredickas and Naomi Campbell; the towing experts from Kens Towing, Blittersdorf Towing and K & S Towing; The Fire/EMS departments from Brandywine Hospital Medic 93, SCCEMS Medic 94, Nemours Kids Critical Care Transport Team, the Avondale Fire Department and EMS, the Kennett Fire Department and EMS, the West Grove Fire Department and EMS, the PoMarLin Fire Department, the Washington Hose Company EMS, the Modena Fire Department and EMS, MidAtlantic Medevac, JeffSTAT, Christiana Care Life Net 6-1; and the food vendors from Kona Ice, The Pretzel Factory, WaWa Food Stores and Herr's Potato Chips.
Additional participating sponsors included Homes for Heros with Kim Sheehan and Ken Pitts; The EMS Store; Brandywine Cardiology; Applebees; PJ Whelihans; Round 1 Bowling; Downingtown Bowling Palace, Downingtown Paladium; and Buffalo Wild Wings.
The organizers of the event also wish to thank the Avondale Fire Department for hosting the event, cooking for the event and providing an excellent facility and volunteers.

To learn more about the St. Baldricks Foundation, visit

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].