MERIDEN — School board member Kyle Abercrombie slid into an empty chair at Quality Time Food & Spirits Saturday, accepted a smock, and faced the crowd. A hairstylist ventured toward him with a comb and a razor.
Someone had to be the first to get their head shaved at Saturday’s St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, and Abercrombie accepted the challenge.
“When’s the last time you had your head shaved like that?” a spectator shouted.
Middletown’s Stephen Rydiel, a volunteer firefighter in Wallingford, quickly followed, sitting beside Abercrombie as his twin sons watched.
When his head was shaved, Stephen Rydiel looked in a handheld mirror, nodded and gave a thumbs up before bending down to let 6-year-old Cooper Rydiel rub his head.
For six consecutive years, Meriden, with strong support from the city’s fire department, held a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, but then stopped hosting it. Saturday’s event was the city’s first fundraiser for the childhood cancer-fighting foundation in three years, and it raised more than $15,000, said co-organizer Colleen Docherty, manager of Quality Time Food & Spirits.
According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, about one in 285 children in the United States will have cancer before they turn 20, and head-shaving events, such as the one on Saturday, raise money to help find cures.
In 2000, a head-shaving event was held in New York as a challenge among businessmen. Today, there are more than 1,300 head-shaving events throughout the country.
In Meriden, employees of Mari J Salon in Plainville donated their time, talent, and supplies to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. They shaved heads and offered chair massages Saturday, joking with the crowd as they worked.
“This is my first time (volunteering), and I’m really excited,” said hairstylist Emily Carlson as she cut off Joe Holloway’s ponytail.
Holloway, who kept his ponytail as a memento, said he grew it intentionally. He was going to donate it to Locks of Love, but then instead decided to participate in the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, he said.
After Holloway, Carlson welcomed Meriden resident Ruth Green, a city employee who works in the personnel department at City Hall, and took a razor down the middle of her head. Giggles escaped from onlookers.
“That’s my family over there,” Carlson said, pointing to a group of people taking pictures.
As with Holloway, Carlson has participated in St. Baldrick’s fundraisers before. It is for a good cause, she said.
“The first time I did it, it was a little chilly, and I had to wear a hat to bed,” Carlson said. “I got used to it.”