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The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh Club — Shaving to Save Lives

West Orange residents take dramatic step to fight cancer

It's one thing to write a check and make a donation to a charity. It's another thing to reach out to family and friends to ask for a donation for charity. It's yet another thing to fundraise and agree to shave off your hair.

St. Baldrick's is a foundation that funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization, except the U.S. government.

The volunteer organization organizes fundraisers where people agree to shave their heads. Yes, you read that right. Men, women and children fundraise and have their family and friends pay them to shave their heads. All for a good cause.

On Saturday at 3 p.m., the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh Club will be hosting their fourth annual event. West Caldwell resident Kevin Kinney, who is a volunteer event coordinator, first heard about the event in 2005 when a friend approached him for a donation. Kinney quickly agreed and made a donation.

The following year, a different friend approached him for a donation. Kinney decided to learn more about St. Baldrick's. "After doing some research and talking to former 'shavees,' I decided to get more involved," said Kinney. He called his brothers and other family members and friends and formed a team of seven to participate in his friends event. "That year, 2006, we raised over $12,000 in about four weeks time," he said.

At that point, Kinney felt compelled to take it a step further by becoming a volunteer event coordinator.

"Of course this is something that is hard to do yourself. It requires the coordination of many people, including barbers, shavees and volunteers and, most importantly, a venue," said Kinney. "I approached a local fraternal organization, The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh Club, and asked if they would host this annual event and they quickly agreed. That year, 14 heads were shaved and $23,000 was raised." Kinney's teenage son, his entire soccer team and all coaches have also gotten shaved in the past.

Over the past four years, the West Orange group has raised more than $200,000 through this annual event. This year, they have a goal of $100,000. As of Thursday, they have raised more than $50,000. The number, however, should rise dramatically over the next several weeks as more donations arrive.

First time shavees, but long-time West Orange residents Lisa O'Donnell Fahoury, 46, and Raymond Fahoury, 45, are very excited and a little apprehensive, to participate in the event.

"It was intriguing to me on a few levels. It seemed like a bold way to show solidarity with families who are struggling with the unimaginable — a child with cancer," said Lisa O'Donnell Fahoury. "I was also curious if it would be more difficult for me as a woman to commit to having my head shaved. How much did my hair really mean to me? Guess I'm about to find out!"

Raymond Fahoury was surprised at how many people had not heard of St. Baldrick's. "It presented an opportunity to introduce the organization to others. Plus, I couldn't let Lisa shave her head alone," he said. The Fahoury's had hoped to raise $1,000 each for the charity. "Together, we've raised over $5,000 so far!"

In addition to the uncertainty of her appearance with a shaved head, Lisa O'Donnell Fahoury wonders how her clients will react to her new do.

"As a small business owner, I'm a little nervous about the few weeks after the event," she said. "I tried to keep my schedule relatively light — especially meeting with any first-time clients. How do you explain something like this? It's the elephant in the room. But most people are remarkably supportive once they hear about St. Baldrick's. I've been called brave more times than I can count."

Kristopher Spring, 32, is a lifelong resident of West Orange. He has participated in the event for the past two years.

"My family and friends, some of whom have participated in past years as well, have been overwhelmingly supportive of this event and my participation in it," he said. "Spring has already met his goal of $1,000 and feels comfortable with a shaved head. "I'm an associate editor for an academic publishing company, and the shaved head doesn't have any effect on my day-to-day. In fact, I suspect that management is more pleased now than when I had my long hair."

John Prior is the current president of The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh Club. The past three presidents have participated in the shaving. "Now it's my turn," said Prior, with a laugh. Prior, who has been a firefighter with the West Orange Fire Department for 22 years and has a thick head of dark hair, has received a lot of support from his family and friends, although they are a bit apprehensive.

"My family is shocked that I am actually doing it," Prior said. "My brothers are balding or going grey, so they are getting a big kick out of this," said Prior, who has raised $6,500 so far. Prior's biggest supporter has been his wife. "She is very excited to see how it will look."

Volunteers are welcome in many capacities — from shavees (local sports teams welcome) and kids' entertainment (clowns and face painters) to donations of food and raffle prizes, if you own a local business and would like to lend your support. Or, you can stop by to support the brave "shavees" going under the clippers. For more information, contact coordinator Kevin Kinney at (973) 214-0170.

Do you have ideas for upcoming columns, know an athletic enthusiast, want to ask a question, or can put me in touch with people who are inspiring or creating a healthier West Orange? Post a comment or e-mail Hurtado. Hurtado is an enthusiastic fitness and wellness expert with years of experience. She blogs about her health and fitness adventures at JudieJuice. Her articles have been published in magazines such as Time Out New York and Park Place. 

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