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Our St Baldrick’s adventures are not yet over. Tomorrow, Mark will shave his head for the sixth year in a row at AJ Rocco’s downtown. The schedule is a bit different this year, with the head-shaving event taking place before the parade instead of after. It makes a lot of sense since the meaning of people’s sacrifice can be easily overshadowed by the throngs of drunk people meandering through the bar. But it’s also sort of a bummer because I’m not sure I can muster the will to drink beer that early in the day (for the sake of St Patrick, though, I will certainly try . . . I am a Gallagher, after all).
One of the cool things about tomorrow is that the executive director of the national St Baldrick’s Foundation is coming from California to knight a true Cleveland St Baldrick’s hero: Tom “the Fro” Barnard. This man, who has a stuffy ol’ day job at the Art Museum, grows his hair from March 17 to March 17 every year. And he is not called The Fro for nothing. Really, check out his page in the link above or just look below.
In the past six years, he has raised $33,000 for St Baldrick’s and is poised to hit the $40,000 mark any minute now. As far as I know, he has no personal connection to childhood cancer; this has just become his thing. And he’s embraced it in a really big way. And now, in St Baldrick’s hallowed tradition, shavees are welcomed into the Knights of the Bald Table in their seventh year. So we will be there by noon tomorrow to witness Tom’s grand event.
Or at least plan to be their next year when my own sweet Mark will become a knight. (He always has been, if you ask me . . .)
I’ve finally uploaded all of Dallas’ pictures to a Kodak Gallery, found here. I have more to add from both Mark’s and my dad’s cameras. The cool thing about these public galleries is that you can all add your photos to the one album and then we’ll have a huge array of images to look at and choose from to represent that very special day.
Also, I finally received a link to the piece on Fox News. There are actually two, one from last Sunday and another from this past Friday that has our event intermingled with the A.J. Rocco’s and U.S. events. (U.S., by the way, has passed us by, having raised a total of $46,365 with 65 heads shaved. Oh well, it was all in honor of Austin and it all goes to the best place. But … next year!). The clip of our event (the second one down) is sort of silly because the cameraman picked the worst possible moment to interview me, right between introducing people and while Breadan was shaving (which I completely missed). But I’m pretty sure I had done a fine job, explaining St. Baldrick’s and the value of raising money and awareness and so on, when he asked me how this all makes me feel. How does it make me feel? Well, you can see my jumbled response! I was trying to say something about Leah, because she had just finished shaving and the shock and awe and emotion of that moment was still fresh in my mind. But I got sidetracked and first mentioned Kristi and finally ended up looking over my shoulder to catch a quick glimpse of Braedan and whatever I said after that is laying on the cutting room floor.
Oh well, I guess they captured true emotion.
Speaking of true emotion, Saturday was another really special day. Just really … special. These past five years of being involved with St. Baldrick’s has made St Patrick’s Day into a pretty significant holiday for our family. And this year, with the boys being the national face of the head-shaving campaign, that significance has only grown.
We headed downtown into an extremely crowded and party-like atmosphere in the mid-afternoon. AJ Rocco’s was as crowded as ever, if not more so. We pushed out way through to the back where we gathered with family and friends and climbed onto a bench so we could watch the festivities from on high.
Finally, it was our turn and we pushed and shoved and squeezed our way to the stage in the corner. Mark and Kirk and Jay were all shaving together, with special permission granted to Braedan and Austin to help with Mark’s shearing. I love this photo below as the MC announced that it was us on the huge poster on the wall:
And then they began. Braedan, naturally, hopped up and grabbed those buzzers and happily started shaving Daddy. Austin, naturally, hung back in my arms until watching his big brother have all the fun made him jealous enough to brave the crowds and he too scooted into Daddy’s lap and took his turn. Once they got started, there was no stopping them.
I have moments, every once in a while, when the enormity of all we’ve been through hits me like a ton of bricks. All the years of fear and worry, of calling the hospital “home” and of waiting through eight and ten hour surgeries, of poking and sticking my poor boy’s battle-scarred body, of never knowing what fresh horror the next day might hold. And it came crashing down around me, right then as I felt so overwhelmingly relieved to watch my two healthy children shave their father’s head, so incredibly honored to have them represent this very special event the whole world over.
Now, some of you may say, “That’s great, let the feelings come, don’t hold back.” But really, standing in a crowded bar on a holiday in the middle of downtown Cleveland is neither the time nor the place to really break down. So I shed a few tears and choked the rest back and took a lot of pictures and cheered them on, so full of pride and amazement at how we’d come through, so grateful for all the love and support we felt and still feel around us.
And then it was over. They were done and stood up to show off their nicely shaped domes. Then it was more beers and sending the kids home with their aunt and take-out so we could spend the rest of the evening celebrating.
There was one other moment worth mentioning though. As you might imagine, bringing your kids into any downtown bar on St Patrick’s Day in Cleveland is risky business. And while A.J.Rocco’s has given our city a huge gift by hosting this event over the past ten years, it is, nonetheless overcrowded with post-Parade partiers. Most of the people were there specifically for St. Baldrick’s, but some had undoubtedly wandered in off the streets. And while mine were not the only kids there, they were among just a handful. So, as we were waiting our turn, tucked away in a corner, this one woman walked by a few times and shot some very dirty looks in our direction. Later, as Mark was watching one of our nurses shave her head, with Austin perched on his shoulders, this woman leaned in to say, “He shouldn’t be here.”
Oooh, man, I wish she’d said it to me because I’ve been fantasizing about what I’d have said back ever since Mark told me. But my husband, Mr Cool and Collected, just calmly replied, “You’re gonna regret saying that in about ten minutes.” She clearly had no idea what was going on there that day.
Because of every one of the hundreds of people squashed into that narrow little bar, Austin deserved to be there most of all.