Local man champions annual March cancer fundraiser

Shaving for a cause

There's a new face of St. Baldrick's in Soldotna this year.

For the past three years, Steven Vinzant has stood on the corner in Soldotna, waving signs to make sure people were aware of the annual fundraiser that helps support childhood cancer. But this year, he's taken on a new role as the event's organizer. He wound up in that position when he started checking the website, and didn't find a local event.
"I called St. Baldrick's and they didn't have an event listed for 99669," he said.

He kept waking up in the night, worrying that the event wasn't happening. He has a grandson who faces medical challenges, so the event hits home for him. He decided to organize it himself. So far he's gone through more than three reams of paper and eight ink cartridges trying to spread the word.

"I've literally been papering the town," Vinzant said.

Come Saturday, he said he's hoping that the central Kenai Peninsula turns out to help the fight against childhood cancer.

St. Baldrick's is held around the country each year. Participants shave their heads and garner donations for doing so. The money goes to research on curing childhood cancer. Vinzant said funding is needed to help fight leukemia and other cancers. Solutions exist, but they're expensive. Every community needs to do what it can to take care of children.

"It's kind of up to us big kids to watch out for the little kids," Vinzant said.

Sunday, Vinzant said 17 people had signed up to participate on the website. But in years past, the event has had a line out the door with people wanting to participate without advance registration. He's usually among them, and he's counting on that group again this year.

The Soldotna event has shaved 423 heads, roughly half females. Vinzant said that the Kenai Peninsula probably has more female participants than other communities. Total, the event has raised more than $151,000 on the central Peninsula in the last six years.
"That's amazing for such a small town," Vinzant said.
This year's goal is $20,000.

But the biggest milestone for Vinzant will come next year. After seven years of shaving, participants become Knights of the Bald Table, he said.

"I'm kind of excited to see it happen," Vinzant said. "I will be doing it next year even if there isn't an event. I'll probably be doing it for the rest of my days."

St. Baldrick's is the one occasion each year when Vinzant shaves his head. His beard goes, too.

"I grow and mow just for St. Baldrick's, and I have a full Santa beard," he said.

This is Vinzant's sixth year going bald.

"I used to have really long hair," Vinzant said.

A co-worker told him about St. Baldrick's, and jokingly suggested he participate.

"It blew him away that I would do that because he always remembered me with long hair," Vinzant said. "But I kind of have a personal connection."

This year, all five of Vinzant's grandkids will come to the St. Baldrick's event to root him on.

In the past, 200 to 300 people have attended the St. Baldrick's event, including people just there to cheer on others.

"We can use all the encouragement we can get to go up there and become bald," Vinzant said.

The shaving will be in the Soldotna Elks Club gymnasium from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be food from Davis & Sons Pit BBQ, and activities other than shaving.

Anyone with questions can call Vinzant directly at 394-0771, he said. There's also a Facebook page for the local event, and the Soldotna shave is event No. 56 on the national organization's website.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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