Ten years and more than $423,000.
Those numbers were on many lips Saturday at the annual Montana City Volunteer Fire Department’s “Brave a Shave for Kids with Cancer” event benefiting the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“We made $5,600 that first year at that tiny little event down the road,” Grayson Lenik told the crowd at Montana City School. “Now we’re here 10 years later … and it’s incredible to see how the community supports this event.”
With fundraising topping $423,000, Lenik marveled at the progression. His family has accounted for between $30,000 and $35,000 in fundraising.
“It is a lot of work but it doesn’t seem like 10 years,” he said.
The event includes a silent auction, barbecue and head shaving to support local kids suffering from cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The foundation is a volunteer-driven charity that funds more childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government.
A row of barber chairs sat in behind a row of pictures. Each photo told the story of a child in various stages of fighting cancer, including some who have lost the battle.
"This table is why we’re here. Everybody in this room has probably faced somebody with cancer, and you’re wondering, what can we do to help?" Captain Ken Kluth said. "This is what I figured out we can do to help."
Kluth has coordinated the event since the beginning, his voice cracking as he shared the stories of two of his own nephews’ illnesses.
“When we started this event we never dreamed we’d be here in 10 years and $423,000 and it hasn’t fallen off,” he said. “I think it’s become a tradition for a lot of people, but I also think when you look at how many kids in the valley are on this table it’s brought a lot of people together.”
One-by-one the barber chairs filled and clippers buzzed. As hair fell to the floor some smiled and others held back tears.
“This makes five straight years for us,” said firefighter John Rasmann, who had his head shaved along with his son Ian. “First, it’s a great cause and like they said earlier, everyone knows someone affected by cancer, and it’s something we as a department embrace.”
To learn more about the fundraiser and to donate, visit https://www.stbaldricks.org/events/montanacity2017.