O’Toole’s Irish Pub and Restaurant raised about $25,000 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation at the pub’s recent annual head-shaving event, contributing to a six-year total of more than $125,000.
Nearly 200 attendees, family members and friends pledged money to see 33 men, women and children go bald before their eyes. Stylists from D’Amico Hair Lounge shaved their heads.
St. Baldrick’s Foundation doesn’t use the hair to make wigs or soak up oil spills, according to www.stbaldricks.org/head-shaving.
“On the surface, we shave because kids with cancer often lose their hair during treatment, and we stand proudly bald beside them,” the site said.
But the real reason is to raise funds and awareness to battle and cure childhood cancers. Since 2005, the foundation has awarded more than $103 million for research grants.
O’Toole’s local honoree is 9-year-old Peyton M., diagnosed seven years ago with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The largest volunteer group, Team Stephen, contributed nearly $5,000, raised by 15 shavees and 100 supporters. This team participated in honor of Steve Easton, who worked at O’Toole’s from its opening until he was killed in a car accident June 12, 2012, his 34th birthday.
The upbeat Easton was born with a rare, often fatal disorder, which he survived. Compassionate toward children with illnesses, he was a shavee for St. Baldrick’s Foundation his last five years.
Easton’s mother, Celia Easton, of Gibsonton, was Team Stephen’s captain, and his father, Steve Easton, was a shavee.
The largest individual total, more than $11,000, came from shavee Roy Yanong, of Brandon, associate professor and extension veterinarian of the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin.
Two years ago, Yanong asked O’Toole’s employee Scott Bayer why he was bald. After hearing about St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Yanong and his friend Craig Watson, director of the aquaculture laboratory, decided to “divide and conquer” for the head-shaving event. Watson brought in more than $8,500 as the shavee in 2012.
This year was Yanong’s turn to lose his locks. He dedicated his personal donation to his late friend and colleague Greg Vermeer, who died six years ago from a brain tumor.
Yanong comes from a huge Filipino family and his father was a pediatrician, so “Kids have always had a special place in my heart,” he said. “Kids shouldn’t have to deal with cancer.”
“No one, of any age, should, but many of the afflicted children who benefit from St. Baldrick’s have not even had enough time to dream about their lives, much less begin to live them,” he said. “I remember when my biggest concerns were what was for dinner, why is there so much homework and why do I have to drink my milk!”
When Michelle and Marcus Winters, O’Toole’s owners, first heard about St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s head-shaving events, “they were so touched by the cause and the fun way to go about it, they decided to incorporate it into O’Toole’s annual events,” said spokeswoman Nicole Valentin. “It’s a fun and family-friendly way to make a huge, positive impact toward finding a cure.”
For information, visit www.StBaldricks.org and www.otoolesirishbar.com.
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@ tampabay.rr.com.