Saint Baldrick’s Foundation event unites West Milford’s bravest and finest

| 05 Apr 2012 | 12:11

WEST MILFORD — When you think of West Milford’s police and firemen, you probably wouldn’t picture them draped in a barber’s towel, watching as their buzzed hair falls to the ground. But they will not be alone; bystanders at the St. Baldrick’s event will joke and cheer them on. They will be heroes and their shiny pates will tell the world they care as they stand in solidarity with kids who have lost their hair to cancer treatments.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has its roots in a barroom in New York City when a group of co-workers turned their St. Patrick’s Day party into a head shaving soiree to benefit childhood cancer research.

Today the movement is the largest volunteer program for children’s cancer research and events are held in every state and many foreign countries. They have raised $131 million dollars, bringing hope and much-needed funding to pediatric cancer experts.

Research grants have benefited institutions close to home; Hackensack University Medical Center, St. Peter’s University Hospital, St. Barnabas Hospital and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, to name a few.

It’s been said that a fund raising event like this starts with the passion of a single volunteer. As the movement grows camaraderie arises as people work for a common cause.

Last year West Milford Police Officer Robert Kulawiak approached West Milford’s Macopin Fire Company #4 firefighter Dave LeMay about hosting a St. Baldrick’s event at the firehouse. The rest is history as the township’s Finest and Bravest united and in their first year raised $18,000. This year, under the banner of “WMPD/WMFD Conquer Cancer” they are upping the ante and hoping to hit the $25,000 mark.

It gets personal Kulawiak is the father of three children. He realizes his blessings and wants to make a difference in the life of children less fortunate.

“We complain, we’re tired or we didn’t get our coffee while another family is rushing to the hospital,” he said. He spoke of the families he’s met and how uncomplaining they are, totally focused on beating back the illness.

Kulawiak is instilling his values in his children, wanting them to understand that while they’re playing ball another child is in a hospital bed. He obviously got through to his oldest child, Connor, who last year at five-years old had his head shaved.

World-wide 160,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer each year.

“It’s the number one killer of children in the United States. We’ve got to do better so no child or parent will ever have to suffer again,” said Kulawiak.

Fireman Dave LeMay, the father of three boys, had more personal reasons for getting involved. His nephew, 12 years old now and doing well, lost an eye to a cancerous tumor when he was just four years old. LeMay was eager to help and he and Kulawiak became co-chairmen of the event, a winning combination that continues this year.

“It was one of the biggest events I’ve done but I just knew there were good people out there who would support the cause,” LeMay said.

Get shaved Last year there were hundreds of spectators and 60 “shavees” including LeMay’s son, 10-year-old Evan, 40 firemen from West Milford and a dozen township police officers. This year many more West Milford firefighters will be joining in as well as other emergency workers from in and out of town.

LeMay likes the idea of teaming up with the police.

“We work together every day, putting our lives on the line and they back us up," said LeMay. "We come together as a whole to help this cause.”

So what do they need this year? “Shavees.” Both genders and all ages are welcome, although those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. You can have flowing tresses or be almost bald. You can come as an individual or form a team. Kulawiak and LeMay are reaching out to sports teams and schools, churches, scouts and the general public. If you don’t want to partake in the buzz cut, donations can be made on the St. Baldrick’s Web site where you can pledge to a particular participant or not.

A family event The event, to be held on June 10, is a fun, family day. The kids can tour the Macopin Fire House and look over the police cars. The Harmony Brothers will be donating their musical talents and there will be bag pipers, a free barbeque, a bouncy house, a hot rod and motorcycle show and the Entenmanns Entertainment Truck with family games. It’s a great day for children to learn about giving. Connor Kulawiak and Evan LeMay will be back for another buzz cut and some fun, too.

All donations go to the cause. “We have no budget. It’s pure profit to St. Baldrick’s,” LeMay said.

LeMay and Kulawiak will be getting their “summer hair cuts” again and they recommend the style to everyone.

“It’s very comfortable and it’s the least I can do to make a difference in a child’s life," said Kulawiak. "I’d go bald forever if it meant finding a cure.”

Bald forever isn’t necessary, but the thought is definitely beautiful.