457 5th Avenue South, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Donations rolled in as hair fell to the ground outside Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub Sunday.
Four men raised hundreds of dollars for childhood cancer research in exchange for shaving their heads bald.
“These kids go through a lot,” said Mike O’Regan, co-owner of Paddy Murphy’s after his brown hair was shorn. “Anything we can do to help them.”
The event, which raised funds for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, was one of about 20 in Florida and more than 600 in the country this year.
St. Baldrick’s launched in 2000 as a few colleagues decided to raise money for childhood cancer by shaving their heads on St. Patrick’s Day. The event has since grown into the world’s largest volunteer-driven fund-raising program for kids cancer research, the foundation’s Web site said.
With shave-offs in 24 countries and all 50 U.S. states, volunteers have raised more than $74 million since 2000.
Mike Assaf, with his own shiny head, organized the events on Marco Island and in Naples this weekend before St. Patrick’s Day.
Assaf said 21 people raised more than $6,200 shaving their heads on Marco Island Saturday, including his wife, Pat Assaf.
She offered up her shoulder-length locks after her husband said he wished there had been at least one woman willing to part with her hair.
“Friends think I look better,” Pat Assaf joked, rubbing her gray peach fuzz. “I must have looked terrible before.”
The pair raised $2,200.
Jim Benham drove from Fort Myers to rid himself of his locks of thick, silver hair.
The last time he’d been bald was 1956 in the U.S. Marine Corps.
For the past two years, his daughter in Virginia has shaved her head for the cause.
While it was a strange surprise to her mother, her father was inspired.
“It makes you proud,” Benham said.
He raised $1,200 sending e-mails and soliciting donations from friends and family on Facebook.
“Most of them know someone who has cancer,” he said. “It spreads the word and you hope they’re inspired by your actions.”
The Irish pub hosted this event four years ago but those organizers didn’t return.
“I wanted to do it every year, but it just didn’t happen,” said Paddy Murphy, manager and former owner of the pub bearing his name.
He was a little disappointed that the turnout was low Sunday.
“It’s a bad day,” Murphy said, referring to it being the day after the Naples St. Patrick’s Day parade. “People have a head that doesn’t need a razor buzzing in their ears.”
Still, Murphy was the first to sit in the makeshift barber’s chair on the sidewalk, shouting “help” as the electric razor came close to his full, white beard.
He told the crowd that had gathered: “I had to get rid of my green hair from yesterday.”
Murphy tried to entice passersby to sit in the chair and say goodbye to their hair.
“Now here’s a man with a lovely head of hair,” he shouted.
None took the challenge, but several stuffed $20 bills in the donation jar.
For Spencer Cootware, the act was personal.
His mother died of cancer and his twin brother’s wife was just diagnosed.
“Let’s cure this thing,” he said, offering his dark hair that hung in curls between his shoulder blades.
Once the hair from his head and face lay at his feet, some heckling from the crowd commenced.
“Please put it back,” someone shouted.
“It’s a cool draft like I’ve never felt before,” Cootware joked.
For the Assafs, they hope these four newly bald heads, and the generosity of their donors, will inspire others to do the same in coming years.
“We want to raise awareness for the cause,” Mike Assaf said.
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Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/