BALTIMORE, Md. - Before Dan Jarkiewicz’s infant daughter became ill, childhood illness never really crossed his mind.
Now he volunteers for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation , organizing an annual event to help fund childhood cancer research.
The work of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has an even greater meaning for him because of his personal experience with his daughter’s health issues.
At just 9 months old, Jarkiewicz’s daughter Ally had a bone marrow transplant and spent about 10 months undergoing treatment in the hospital.
“Before she got sick, I didn’t’ realize that kids got sick and died like this, I didn’t realize how prevalent that is,” Jarkiewicz said.
On Sunday, March 23, his planning efforts will come to fruition with the 6th annual Baltimore Heroes Event.
As the culmination of fundraising efforts, more than 100 people will join together in to have their heads shaved in support of child cancer patients, many of whom lose their hair while undergoing treatment.
“People recognize that these little guys and girls they are heroes, they fight things on a daily basis that we don’t even think about,” Jarkiewicz said. “This is kind of their day to go up there and we can say ‘we’re proud of you guys for what you’re doing’ or ‘we’re proud of you guys for doing what you did.’”
In the weeks and months leading up to the event, participants get sponsors to raise money. At last year’s event 177 people had their heads shaved.
This year, Jarkiewicz hopes to get 200 people shaving their heads and big fundraising returns for the worthy cause.
“I’m hoping to raise at least $140,000, I’d like to get to $150,000 but I don’t want to raise the bar too high,” he said.
Jarkiewicz said even those who don’t choose to shave their heads can come out to support the kids and the cause.
From face painting and games to silent auctions and raffles, “there’s really stuff to keep someone of any age occupied throughout the event,” he said.
“I think that the kids really appreciate being recognized and knowing that people appreciate what they do,” Jarkiewicz said, adding, “I can promise you everyone will feel good when they leave the building, it’s one of those atmosphere’s where you leave feeling like you’ve been a part of something good.”
The event takes place from 1 to 6 p.m. at Martin's East, 9000 Pulaski Highway in Middle River. Those interested in learning more or contributing to the cause can visit the event's designated page: www.stbaldricks.org/events/bmoreheroes .