St. Baldrick’s to stay strong in fight against childhood cancer

Rarely does a haircut make more of a difference than it does at the annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser.

Participants collect donations and sponsorships for shaving their heads. The money is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a California-based nonprofit organization that supports cancer research and treatment for children. Last year’s events raised $581,000 from 766 men, women and children.

The local events kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at three Irish pubs — Nine Fine Irishmen at New York New York, Ri Ra at Mandalay Bay and McMullan’s Irish Pub, 4650 W. Tropicana Ave., Suite 110.

A complete list of dates and venues can be found online at stbaldricks.org. Donations also can be made online.

St. Baldrick’s started in 2000 and was first hosted in Las Vegas in 2007 at McMullan’s Irish Pub. Owners Brian and Lynn McMullan lost one of their three children to cancer 15 years ago. Their 2-year-old daughter, Kyra, died of a brain tumor.

"(Cancer) is the biggest killer of children in this country," Brian McMullan said. "We’ve got to try to take this disease down.

"Of all the federal money given to cancer (research), only a small part goes to childhood cancer."

The McMullans raised $152,000 the first year they hosted the event. Brian, Lynn, their son and daughter shaved their heads to honor Kyra’s memory. The event raised $201,000 the next year and $262,000 the next.

The event was growing too big for McMullan’s, so they invited other local pubs to join in.

"We don’t go knocking on corporate doors; we shave heads," he said. "It’s not about McMullan’s; it’s about the kids.

"It’s a marvelous experience. You’ll be shocked by the buzz you get being there. People are crying for joy, hooting, hollering, joking."

Two people expected to be there Saturday are Sandra Walberg and her 11-year-old son, Austin, who is in remission after more than three years of chemotherapy.

They have seen firsthand how the event can help.

A grant donated by St. Baldrick’s helped fund the Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases of Las Vegas, 3121 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 300, where Austin received treatment.

His doctor, Jonathan Bernstein, shaved his head with Austin the first year they went to McMullan’s.

"(Austin) said it was really comforting," Walberg said. "It just lets him know how much they really support him."

It has become an annual tradition for the Walbergs to volunteer at McMullan’s. The boys in the family still shave their heads.

"If you don’t want to shave your head, you can go to a great party, have a few drinks and throw out a few bucks to see someone else’s head shaved," Walberg said. "I can’t describe the energy when you’re there. It’s just such an awesome experience to see how that touches the families and the community."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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