By MATTHEW FAHR
Barber chairs moved like turnstiles as people from all around the area came to the Romeo Lions Field House to show their support for those fighting cancer.
Volunteer event organizer Michael Fiscus said the Romeo event broke its own record, and is currently ranked fifth nationally for funds raised during the St. Baldrick’s Foundation event.
“It was more crowded than it has been since we began in Romeo,” said Fiscus. “We had wall-to-wall people from 1:30 to 4 p.m.”
In a show of support for children who are enduring the struggle of dealing with cancer and its body-ravaging effects, St. Baldrick’s asks people to show their solidarity with those young souls by shaving their heads.
They came out in force to Romeo with the event currently tallying $317,000 raised to date.
Fiscus said he expects that number to rise as people donate after the fact, pledging donations to those who took part in the event.
Last year, the event raised $302,000, with another $30,000 being donated in the days and weeks afterward.
“In the next few weeks we will be collecting cash that was donated and collecting sponsor matching funds, as well as new donations after people see what their friends and family did for St. Baldrick’s,” Fiscus said.
When the event began six years ago, 18 people shaved their heads and Fiscus raised just more than $14,000 to donate to the foundation, which is dedicated to raising money for life-saving childhood cancer research, and it funds more in childhood cancer grants than any organization except for the U.S. government.
Last year, 525 people shaved their heads.
Fiscus said this year more than 500 people sat down in barber chairs to change their image by shaving their heads, but he said donations went up even with the dip in “shavees,” as he calls them.
He said 16 people were also “knighted” for being involved for seven consecutive years.
“The number of folks returning was high this year,” said Fiscus. “The word is out there, and those who started with us and helped bring in others are back themselves for a good cause.”
With 25 barber chairs and an average of 10 minutes per haircut -- which may have felt like a lifetime for some first-timers -- the Lions Field House did steady business through the day and brought people into downtown Romeo at night as haircuts were done upstairs at Younger’s Tavern until well into the night.
“I think by the time I packed up and was heading out of town, it must have been 11:30 p.m.” Fiscus said. “A lot of people had a good time.”
Fiscus took time out of his chaotic day to look around at those making such a sacrifice for a loved one or friend.
“It can be so moving to see someone commit to something like that,” he said. “You can tell who the people are who are doing this for the first time and the look on their face, but afterward they are proud of what they did.”
He said 90 percent of donations this year for the Romeo event were done online, and donations will continue to be taken all year online at www.stbaldricks.org/events/romeo/
Romeo currently ranks fifth nationwide in event donations, a goal Fiscus was aiming for at the start of this year.
“That is the achievement I am most proud of,” he said. “We are still in fifth today and I don’t know how long we will be there, but being there right now is such an honor.”