Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. has put a price on his head. Five thousand dollars to be exact.
Lucking is one of the more than 40 Central Kenai Peninsula residents who have volunteered to shave their heads as a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick's Foundation and childhood cancer research on Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"I'm not real excited, I've never been bald before," Lucking said. "But on the other hand I don't feel bad about doing it. It's a worthy cause and it grows back."
Lucking said one of his officers, Tobin Brennan, roped him into doing it this year and is raising the bounty for his baldness.
"Next time I'll go for a larger price tag," he said.
Started 10 years ago as a St. Patrick's Day celebration between co-workers in New York City, the St. Baldrick's Foundation is now a national non-profit and one of the largest private fundraisers for childhood cancer research. People around the world have raised pledges to shave their heads in solidarity with children who have cancer and typically lose their hair during treatment. The Foundation has donated more than $66 million to children's cancer research.
Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche decided to take the challenge along with Lucking this year. He said that if people contribute $5,000 to his head he would shave it, too.
So far Micciche has only received about $100 toward that amount.
"I think I'm pretty safe," he said.
But Micciche will have something else to do besides getting a haircut. He's also the emcee for the event.
Marcia Jacobs, a co-chairperson of the Soldotna St. Baldrick's, said that this year's event would be the biggest ever.
"There's more shavees and more entertainment," she said.
River Kitchens, 9, is one of the shavees this year. She said she has had people close to her die from cancer, like her grandpa.
"I decided maybe I could shave my head for St. Baldrick's so my grandpa would be proud of me," Kitchens said.
She's raised some $520 for her hair to come off on Saturday. While she said she's a little nervous for the shaving, she realizes it's for a good cause.
So far more than $20,000 has been raised this year, less than the $30,000 from last year but still contributing to the nearly $100,000 this area has raised for the St. Baldrick's Foundation over the past four years.
"For a community this size that's huge," Jacobs said.
Saturday will be a fun, family event with dinner, a small kiddie carnival and a cakewalk, along with raffles and speeches, she said. All this in addition to the grand happening -- head shaving.
Music will be provided by Dan Pascucci on the guitar and Steve Adams on the bagpipes.
St. Baldrick's in Soldotna will also honor the childhood cancer heroes in the community like Ivy Howland, who's currently getting treated for brain cancer at the Seattle Children's Hospital, and Marcus Yamada who has battled leukemia.
Jacobs' own daughter, Anjuli, will also be remembered at the event.
Anjuli died in 2001 when she was 4 years old from brain stem cancer. Her death is the reason Jacobs got involved as a self-described "warrior against childhood cancer."
"After she died I decided I absolutely would not let her suffering and dying in vain," Jacobs said. Jacobs works at Central Peninsula Hospital and is also involved in various childhood cancer organizations.
Her other daughter, Emily, 2, was diagnosed with a serious brain malformation and so she has also been working to fight against that as well as cancer.
"Some people told me they are scared of coming because it might be depressing," she said. But, "it's an inspiring evening."
St. Baldrick's is an important event because less than 3 percent of the federal monies that are allocated to cancer research are for childhood cancer research, Jacobs said, so the bulk of it comes from private organizations like that foundation.
"Research is what leads to cures. They don't just fall out of the sky," Jacobs said. "The need is very great. The suffering is very great and it's time to put an end to it."
The St. Baldrick's event is at the Soldotna Sports Center at 6 p.m. March 20. Admission is free but donations toward the dinner are appreciated.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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