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Couple finds new reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

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The sight of children who are bald from chemotherapy can be uncomfortable for some. For those children, the cancer and side-effects from the treatments are inescapable.

Through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, people can support young, cancer patients, raise money and awareness for childhood cancer research and donate hair for wigs.

Brian Hammer, a 30-year-old junior majoring in exercise science and health promotion at Colorado State University-Pueblo, said he decided in February to participate in the St. Baldrick’s Day event this year, but there weren’t any in Pueblo. After reviewing the Web site, he signed up for a virtual event, selecting three children to honor.

St. Baldrick’s Day starts when the clippers turn on and the hair comes off. At noon on St. Patrick’s Day, Brian got his head shaved at the 4th Street Barber in Pueblo.

His wife, Veronica Hammer, is a 27-year-old junior, majoring in criminology at CSU-Pueblo. She recently lost her father, Phillip Gonzales, to glioblastoma, or brain tumors.

Gonzales was only 32 years old when he began fighting the tumors. He battled them for 12 years, but was only diagnosed with cancer one and a half years ago, Veronica said. The average life expectancy at the point of diagnosis was six months, she said.

She said within a year her father went from fully functional to needing assistance with everyday tasks, regardless of how private.

“It takes away your dignity,” Veronica said.

With tears welling in her eyes, Veronica told how her father was fun-loving with a passion for cooking. She said he always found a way to make his family his priority.

Brian said watching his father-in-law fight for his life made him realize that it can happen to anyone. He said that was why he decided to do something.

Brian is honoring three children on the St. Baldrick’s Web site.

Nathan Gentry’s current status is now “Angel” after passing after his seventh birthday. He had been fighting with cancer and teaching other children about it for five years.

“Nathan J.” is 7 years old and is in remission. His mother writes that he has participated in several cancer fundraisers including St. Baldrick’s.

“It’s just hair, Mom, and I need to do this for all of the other kids that are going through what I went through,” Nathan J. told his mother.

Isabelle Kerr is 5 years old and was diagnosed two years ago with Leukemia. She has been receiving treatment for one year, with a projected time of June 2009 for treatments to be completed.

Brian said he arranged to have a St. Baldrick’s event on campus at CSU-Pueblo next year so more money can be raised and more children can be helped. Tony Sanchez, from 4th Street Barber, has volunteered to be the barber for the event.

Brian also said he might grow his hair continuously for one year to see if he can meet the eight to 10-inch requirement for donating to Locks of Love, another non-profit organization, which uses real hair to make wigs for adolescent chemotherapy patients.

“Imagine a world without cancer,” Veronica said.

She said she encourages people to go online and research the effects cancer can have on a family. She said surgeries, chemotherapy, computerized axial tomography scan and magnetic resonance imaging can have devastating financial ramifications, as well as the emotional toll it can take on caregivers.

“If you have a heart, you’re going to want to go out and help,” Veronica said.

Anyone interested can still make donations by going to http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/shavee_info.php?ParticipantKey=2009-330930 .

CSU-Pueblo: St. Baldrick’s Foundation/4th Street Barber & Styling Center from C. M. Gray on Vimeo.