The Story of St. Baldrick’s in McHenry
The story of St. Baldrick’s in the McHenry community is a story of compassion and dedication. It is the story of young and old coming together for a common cause. It is the story of raising money to end childhood cancer in our lifetime, and it is the story of an entire community united in this fight!
In 2009, the first St. Baldrick’s Event was hosted at McHenry West High School. The idea was brought to the school by Charlie Nuck, a Sophomore at West. Charlie had learned about St. Baldrick’s through Fox TV News, and thought it would be a great way for West students to get involved in an important cause. Students ran with the idea and they planned t-shirt sales, jam sessions, coin wars, and committed to shaving their heads, all in an effort to raise money for children’s cancer research. The cause became even more real for them when they were introduced to Jackson Grabow. Jackson, a toddler whose family was connected to the KinderCare Day Care across the street from West Campus, was battling cancer, and that connection to a child in their own community provided the drive for West students to make that first St. Baldrick’s Event a success. Police Chief Bill Brogan also joined in that first year, putting together a team of police officers who committed to go bald with West students. $14,000 was raised for St. Baldrick’s, and another $3,500 was raised to help the Grabow family offset some of the costs of Jackson’s care, but no one envisioned the successes of the event that were yet to come.
Little Jackson Grabow lost his battle against cancer in the spring following the first St. Baldrick’s Event, and that loss pushed the students and staff at West Campus to become even more determined to have the next St. Baldrick’s surpass the success of the first. East Campus and Parkland Middle School joined the effort the second year, and from the Police Department involvement in 2009, more and more community organizations joined in the fight. The McHenry Fire Department, the City Council, the elementary schools in McHenry, and some of the McHenry churches all formed groups to go bald and raise money. It truly became a community-wide effort!
Along with growing community support, the success of the McHenry St. Baldrick’s Event has been driven, in large part, by the enormous contributions of the female students and women of the community, who have gone bald for the cause. Sarah Zielinski was the first, and only, female student to shave her head in 2009, and this lead to others in the following years such as Megan Murgatroyd and Jordan Carr. In 2010, it was Megan Murgatroyd who inspired Mayor Sue Low to join the shave, and Jordan Carr became the first West female student to shave her head all four years of high school. The commitment of these women, and many hundreds others like them, has become one of the most inspirational aspects of the event.
Due to the remarkable efforts of all involved, the 2013 McHenry St. Baldrick’s Community Event became the largest St. Baldrick’s event in the world with 965 shavees, and that title was held onto last year with 836 heads shaved. Along with that honor, the amount of money that has been raised these past six years is truly phenomenal! In the six years since the event began, $819,500 has been collected for St. Baldrick’s, and for local families. St. Baldrick’s has become such an integral part of the fabric of this community, and as we continue to work together in support of this effort – the best is yet to come!