MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island has some new “bald eagles” roaming free. Saturday afternoon, St. Baldrick’s returned once again to Cathy O’Clarke’s, as two dozen men, and at least one lady, gave their hair to help fight kids’ cancer.
“We had 22 signed up, but we had a few walk-ins at the last moment,” said Pat Assaf, taking a moment from her emcee duties, with her freshly-shorn head. She and her husband Mike Assaf, who has business cards proclaiming himself “the Lebanese leprechaun,” have organized the event on Marco Island for four years.
Mike Assaf also went under the clippers of volunteer barber Russ Azzolina, owner of the Marco Island Barber Shop, wearing a floppy St. Baldrick’s Irish hat. Some ended up with a Marine Corp-esque buzz cut, while others went all the way with the full Yul Brynner.
A gang of four from Gorman’s Auto repair business gave their hair for the cause. Led by owner Tim Gorman, the quartet included employees Justin Silsley, Jason Carlin, and Adam Madden. They raised over $1,100 for the cause, in what has become a tradition.
As the boys were clipped, Tim Gorman’s daughter Catherine Gorman took the mic, drawing cheers from the spectators.
“Don’t you think my dad looks handsome?” she said. “We call them the four bald tires.”
“Just leave the skin,” pleaded Jason Carlin.
Jim Whitmyer, of the Marco Island Beach Bocce Association, went for the full cut, wearing his “Ask Me Why I’m Bald” button. His group raised $850 in pledges, said Whitmyer.
“I’ll get a deluge of money the day of the event,” said Mike Assaf beforehand, and then more keeps coming in when people see the bald heads on people they know. Here on Marco Island, it’s all paper – cash and checks.” When they did the event in Chicago, where it originated, most contributions came over the internet, he said.
As promised, this year Cathy O’Clarke’s owner Mel Slawik shaved his hair off, along with employees including Thomas Krajcovic, entertainer Robbie Doherty, and Orlando, who didn’t give a last name. In addition to hosting the event – and passing out “Irish pickles,” consisting of a shot of Jameson’s whisky followed by a shot of pickle juice – Mel is giving away the gate from Cathy O’Clarke’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day bash, with half going to St. Baldrick’s, and half to the Kiwanis Club.
As the festivities were winding down, Pat Assaf dubbed husband Mike a “Knight of the Bald Table,” and Michael Humphrey showed up unannounced for his tonsure. To cries of “we got a walk-in, ladies” and “he doesn’t have much to lose,” he added his hair to those who gave for a good cause. As the organization’s signs say, “The brave shave – the rest give.”
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has grown in just over 10 years from a challenge among a group of friends to the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraiser for childhood cancer research. Since 2000, the group has raised over $90 million, including more than $22 million last year alone. Last year, St. Baldrick’s volunteers hosted more than 800 events in all 50 states and around the world, shaving over 38,000 heads, including more than 3,900 women.
To contribute to St. Baldrick’s, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, call Mike Assaf at 239-389-4526, or go to www.StBaldricks.org.