Ill. first responders raising money to fight pediatric cancer

Through head-shaving tributes, donations and raffles, Naperville first-responders have a chance to surpass $1.5 million in donations for pediatric cancer research


Suzanne Baker
Naperville Sun, Ill.

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Naperville first-responders have a chance this weekend to surpass a total of $1.5 million in donations for pediatric cancer research.

This year marks the 15th annual Naperville Public Safety St. Baldrick’s event co-sponsored by fire and police departments. The annual head-shaving extravaganza is planned for Saturday at the Marriott Chicago Naperville.

While the goal is to raise $75,000 this year, the group needs just $62,000 to tally $1.5 million in donations to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation over the last 15 years, said Naperville firefighter and paramedic Jody Jones, one of the event’s co-chairs.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money to fund research to find cures for childhood cancers.

Jones said she got involved organizing the event when a co-worker’s 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

“Pediatric cancer is terrible. Parents and kids should not have to go through with that,” Jones said.

Jones said the friendly competition between the fire and police departments is all in good fun.

“Everybody wants to do better… trying to one-up the other department,” she said. “In the end, we always have each other’s back.”

The other co-chair, Naperville Deputy Chief Kathleen Anderson, stepped up as a way to give back for the support she received from fellow police officers when her son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma brain tumor in 2005 when he was 7 years old. Jacob underwent several surgeries and a year of radiation and chemotherapy as a result.

He’s in remission, though Jacob still requires a daily regimen of pills and injections to manage the effects of the cancer treatment he endured, and he continues to be monitored annually through the University of Chicago's Long Term Pediatric Cancer Survivor's Program.

“It’s such a rough and chaotic time. Having the support of co-workers and friends is so huge,” Anderson said.

Organizing the event is far more than lining up folks to get their heads shaved.

Anderson said it starts with a “Battle of the Badges,” where the department that sells the most T-shirts earns bragging rights. Proceeds from the T-shirt sales fund physical costs and some raffle items.

The raffle alone, Anderson said, raises between $10,000 and $12,000.

Anderson said beyond the “Battle of the Badges,” the three unions for the police and fire staff are integral to the event’s success.

The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents approximately 140 sworn officers in Naperville, funds the kids’ room. The Metropolitan Alliance of Police, serving the sergeants and the civilian personnel, provides items for the kids’ raffle, such as a bicycle or a gamer’s chair.

The Naperville Professional Firefighters union typically gets raffle items like an X-box system and pays for printing and administrative costs.

Anderson encourages the public to arrive early — doors open at 5 p.m. — to take full advantage of the family-friendly activities.

She said the festivities kick off at 6 p.m. with the Naperville Fire Department’s Honor Guard and Pipes and Drums, assisted by the Naperville Fire Explorers, Naperville Police Explorers and the Lockport Township High School Junior Air Force ROTC.

Emcee Andy Hampton will lead a program of remembrance and a celebration of survivorship around 6:45 p.m. before the shaving starts at 7 p.m.

Anderson said she’s honored to organize the event, though it’s also her excuse not to have to shave her head. “That’s not a good look for me,” she added.

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©2019 the Naperville Sun (Naperville, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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