Jim Varagona

Tag: childhood cancer

Final Update On My 2014 St. Baldrick’s Effort

On March 8, 2014, I had my head and face shaved in solidarity with children with cancer. In the 2 months leading up to it, through today, I raised $3340 for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. No, St. Baldrick is not a real saint. The name comes from the event that started the organization being near St. Patrick’s Day and going bald. From their site:

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is proud to fund lifesaving research throughout the world, awarding grants that focus on all major types of childhood cancers.

St. Baldrick’s donors and volunteers have enabled the foundation to fund over $127 million in grants, allowing the foundation to fund more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government. Every grant goes through a rigorous scientific review process, ensuring every dollar has the greatest possible impact for children with cancer.

The event I took part in on March 8th at Helen Fitzgerald’s in St. Louis, MO had the most participants (679) and raised the most money ($529,000+) out of all of the organization’s nationwide events thus far in 2014. It is a very moving experience watching a stage full of people get shaven publicly for such a deserving cause, and sometimes even raise more funds on stage by putting a price on facial hair. The stories of children that inspired these people to participate included people shaving in memory of a child that passed away to children currently being treated actually shaving members of their family. You see/hear these stories and know that whatever we can do to better the lives of these children with cancer is a very good thing.

Stage of shavees

Stage of shavees

More shavees. 2nd from left was a young girl that raised more than any other female participant.

More shavees. 2nd from left was a young girl that raised more than any other female participant.

What I did was very little. As I raised funds, it helped me realize some things. In this age of social media, I was expecting donations to come in based on me simply posting a link. That didn’t work very well. Once I began personally engaging with folks on social media, through @’s on Twitter or personal messages on Facebook, I very rarely got a ‘no,’ and when I did, there was good reason given. Otherwise, for the most part, I was either ignored or received a pretty quick reply and a contribution. I wonder how much of it has to do with the personal contact or speaks more to how much people actually pay attention to our posts. Surely, some of it is pressure put on in the moment. I would say it is better to get a polite ‘no,’ or even be ignored, than get some kind of pledge that people do not come through on. That is quite a let down.

The fund raising was great for obvious reasons, but it also gave me the opportunity to catch up with many people I am friends with on Facebook but haven’t actually communicated with in some time. How many people are we friends with on Facebook that we haven’t actually communicated with in years?! In the process of picking up donations, I even was given a shot of tequila and a glass of wine. Charity pays!

People love goals. I raised my goal at least 5 times. When I passed a goal, people who hadn’t donated would congratulate me and assume their donation wasn’t needed. No, I did not magically cure cancer by hitting a small mark. You could donate daily and they’d still need more money before a cure is found. The goal isn’t to hit a mark. It is to find a cure, or at least to improve the quality of life for kids with cancer through breakthroughs in treatment.

With the help of 140 people that contributed to my effort, which I greatly appreciate, we got a smidge closer to that goal. It’s important that we realize outside of our bubble, people need our help. It’s good to recognize that and do whatever we can.

Before

Before

After

After

For more information on St. Baldrick’s: 

http://www.stbaldricks.org/

To donate to my campaign: 

http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/jvaragona

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Help Me Help Kids With Cancer

Please donate here: http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/jvaragona

For the 2nd time (I did this back in March of 2008) I will be shaving my head to raise money for childhood cancer research through The St. Baldrick’s Foundation. As of this post, I am at 51% of my $1000 goal. Of course I would love to surpass that by my shave date of March 8th.

IMG_20140126_161039

Why am I doing this? The most common question I get is: “Is that what your brother died from?” The answer is: absolutely not. Nevertheless, this is about kids suffering and dying when we could definitely be doing more to cure them and/or improve their quality of life through research.

Since its inception, St. Baldrick’s has raised over $188 million for childhood cancer research. It currently funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government. Examples of successes through research funded by the organization:

  • Only 1 in 3 kids with high-risk neuroblastoma (the most common kind) were cured, until research resulted in a new treatment that harnesses the power of the immune system. Now almost half may be cured. This is the first successful immunotherapy for a childhood cancer.
  • In one rare type of leukemia (Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia), less than 20% of kids were cured, and no progress had been made in 50 years. By adding a new drug (Gleevec), more than 70% can now be cured.

Why donate to this cause and not another? I’m not here to say this is the most worthy cause for your money. However, it is an extremely underfunded cause.

  • Currently, childhood cancer research funding accounts for less than 4% of all cancer research funding allotted by the federal government.
  • About 60% of all funding for drug development in adult cancers comes from pharmaceutical companies. For kids? Almost none, because childhood cancer drugs are not profitable.

Dr. Eugenie Kleinerman, head of the division of pediatrics at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center says “Curing childhood cancer is the equivalent of curing breast cancer in terms of productive life years saved.” We could be restoring the years lost by these children due to illness and death, so they can reach adulthood, make families, and make great contributions to society. These children are someone’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, and could be your own.

What prodding do you need to give a donation? Any amount will do and is never too small. If you or your business are willing to give $100 or more, you may include with it a challenge to me. This can be just to have me make an ass of myself and document it or to benefit your business or brand in some way, as long as it requires little to no monetary investment of mine. Need ideas?

I sing:

I dance:

I may not do either well though.

I have an audience of 4000+ Twitter followers, 245 YouTube subscribers and 608,000 views of videos I’ve posted (though many are not my own), so be creative. Let’s have fun with this and help conquer childhood cancers!

Please donate here: http://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/jvaragona

For more information on The St. Baldrick’s Foundation: http://www.stbaldricks.org/

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