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BLUFFTON BASEBALL OFFERS SHEAR SUPPORT TO KIDS WITH CANCER


More than 12,000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer every year. Wednesday afternoon, about 45 Bluffton University baseball players and coaches symbolically showed they care.

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Having already raised more than $7,700 in the last month for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation—which funds research for potential childhood cancer cures—the baseball Beavers took their support a step further on Wednesday, having their heads shaved in solidarity with young cancer victims.

The mass shearing, courtesy of stylists from The Curling Iron in Bluffton, began at noon and continued for an hour in The Commons in the university’s Marbeck Center. It was the first BaseBald for the Cure event for St. Baldrick’s, a Monrovia, Calif.-based charity.

BaseBald was organized two years ago at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill by Chase Jones, a brain cancer survivor. Now working for St. Baldrick’s, he is attempting to expand the program by recruiting participating teams.

He sold Bluffton’s Aaron Hutchison on the idea when they met at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention in early January. "I really hope we can do this," Hutchison, the Beavers’ assistant coach, recalled thinking at the time. "I think our guys will respond well."

And so they did. On the first day of preseason practice, the Beavers set a goal to raise $2,500. Exceeding the goal in less than a week, they doubled it to $5,000. They surpassed that figure about two weeks ago and moved the target again, first to $6,500 and then to $7,500—both of which they eclipsed this week.

"They grasped the idea of helping others," said their head coach, James Grandey, adding that "being able to help younger kids resonated with them."

What Grandey called a "bonus side effect" of the effort has been the chemistry it has helped build among teammates, some of them in friendly competition to raise more money. "It’s helped bring us together," Hutchison said.

Among the players who raised the most—$521 each—were roommates Doug Paulin, a sophomore infielder from Jeromesville, Ohio, and Matt Calhoun, a junior outfielder from Bonita Springs, Fla.

Seeking donations from family, Bluffton friends and other friends affected by cancer, Paulin passed his initial goal of $150 in three days. "Once they found out what it was about, it was easy to get the money," he said.

Ben Roeschley, from Graymont, Ill., said his teammates rallied around a good cause, using social media to their benefit. "It took off a lot more than I thought it would," admitted the sophomore pitcher, who raised $128.

"We’ll probably turn some heads when we’re in Florida," where the Beavers will travel this weekend for eight spring-break games in Port Charlotte, Roeschley noted. But people’s questions about their shaved heads will enable the players to "spread the awareness" about childhood cancer, he pointed out.

"I needed a haircut," added Roeschley, "but I haven’t had it shaved off like this since second grade."

He, and his teammates, had the local stylists to thank for that. The Curling Iron closed for the occasion and even provided small bottles of sunscreen for the players and coaches to pack for Florida.

Guests at the event included, along with his mother and brother, 5-year-old Austin Gallagher of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Austin, who was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor in 2007 and has had 10 surgeries since, is one of St. Baldrick’s five Ambassador Kids in 2012.

"Childhood cancer is filled with darkness and fear," said Austin’s mother, Krissy Dietrich Gallagher. "But in the midst of all that darkness, there is a lot of light in days like today."

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Bluffton public relations, 2/29/12