Jackson, North Canton, Plain, Canton and Northwest school districts will be represented this year.
JACKSON TWP. When 8-year-old Zora Pavichevich’s mother told her she could shave her head, she started running around the living room shouting with excitement.
"I won’t have to comb my hair for months," she said gleefully.
The Lake Cable Elementary student has short hair with the right side cut closer to her scalp. She modeled her look after Gwen Stacy, her favorite character in the animated 2018 film "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."
On Sunday, the second grader will shed her remaining blond locks.
More than 400 students and educators from local school districts will "brave the shave" as part of the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation event at the North Canton Racquet Club, a fundraiser to benefit childhood cancer research. Jackson, North Canton, Plain, Canton Local and Northwest school districts will be represented this year.
"What I think makes this event different than others is it’s truly about kids helping kids," said Sharon Ritchey, a member of the core committee that organizes the event. "I just think that’s remarkable."
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, more than 15,700 kids are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. Globally, more than 300,000 children are diagnosed.
Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute's budget is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.
The event will honor 22 kids who are a combination of cancer fighters, survivors and angels, Ritchey said.
Ritchey’s son, Luke, is among the honorees. Luke Ritchey, now 19, was diagnosed at 13 with stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of lymphoma that affects the B-lymphocytes, according to the Leukemia Foundation.
His illness started with a headache on Christmas Eve of 2013, and he was diagnosed on Feb. 3.
"My son went through something horrible, and my involvement at St. Baldrick’s is my small way of thanking God," Sharon Ritchey said.
Nan Foltz, a member of the core committee, brought the St. Baldrick’s Foundation event to the area 18 years ago with the help of her sister, Sue Stevenson. It’s a way for Foltz to honor the memory of her daughter, Abbey.
Abbey was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 1996 when she was 14. She died in August 2000.
"Through my grief I really felt that I needed to do something," Foltz said. "We felt that Abbey was the kind of girl that always thought about others, and we thought it was a good project for us."
Throughout nearly two decades the fundraiser has grown, Foltz said. The event raised $10,000 in its first year and was just shy of the $300,000 mark in 2019.
This year the goal is $250,000. As of Tuesday afternoon, $216,800 had been raised.
With the event still days away, 587 people, called "shavees," have pledged to shave their head. An additional 195 people are volunteers or barbers. A core committee of seven — including Ritchey, Foltz and Stevenson — help organize the event.
"When I see what happens that day each year, it’s just one of those things that bring tears to my eyes that you can get that many people involved in something so special for one day," Foltz said. "It's pretty amazing."
’A good idea’
Pavichevich asked her mother for permission to participate in St. Baldrick’s after hearing about the fundraiser at school.
Her mother, Emily Pavichevich, was hesitant at first to let her daughter shave her head. The Lake Cable Elementary intervention specialist wanted to make sure her daughter understood it would take a long time for her hair to regrow.
Zora Pavichevich estimated she asked her mom 25 times before she got a yes.
"That’s just her personality to want to do it, so I gave in," her mother said. "It just suits her. She’s unique; she’s the kind of kid who beats to her own drum."
Pavichevich wanted to help after hearing about the death of a little girl, who was fighting cancer, at their parish at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church.
When asked if she would miss her golden locks, she put it simply: nope. To Pavichevich, it’s just hair.
"I want to help kids with cancer, so doctors can find better medicine for the kids," she said. "I thought it was a good idea."
Pavichevich will be joined by at least 50 other Lake Cable Elementary School kids, including 10-year-old Vinny Lattavo.
The fourth-grader and his mother will get up on stage Sunday and shave their heads. The duo wanted to do something to honor friends and family members who have battled cancer.
Each child has their own reason for "braving the shave."
"I want to make sure the kids who have cancer don’t feel alone," said 10-year-old Andrew Pucky.
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