Naperville St. Baldrick’s event raises money to fight cancer
By Hank Beckman For The Sun March 9, 2013 9:51PM
East Aurora High School sophomore Phoebe Pruenda is shaved by volunteer Vanessa Leypold representing Elegante Salon during the Naperville Public Service St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser at the Marriott in Naperville, Ill., on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Pruenda participated in honor of her brother DiMitri who lost his battle to cancer nine years ago at seven years old | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: .
Updated: March 13, 2013 9:43AM
“I chose to do something,” Phoebe Pruenda told the audience in the Marriott Chicago-Naperville Grand Ballroom Saturday night. “I stomped my foot and chose to do something.”
The East Aurora High School sophomore spoke just before getting her head shaved for Naperville’s ninth annual St. Baldrick’s event.
The benefit to raise money for research in the fight against pediatric cancer is one that’s close to Pruenda’s heart, as her brother DiMitri lost his battle with cancer seven years ago.
“I miss him a lot,” she said. “He was an amazing person and he would have done great things.”
More than 100 people volunteered to get shaved, in the process raising $78,000 in pledges for research.
Mayor George Pradel led a contingent of Naperville elected officials shedding their locks or beards for the cause that included City Council members Bob Fieseler, Joe McElroy and Paul Hinterlong.
The mayor drew laughs from the audience with his comment about his bald pate not really needing a haircut.
“I couldn’t grow it up here, so I’ll let them shave this,” he said stroking the goatee he grew specially for the event.
St. Baldrick’s started in 2000 when two friends from New York took up their buddies on a dare to shave their heads on St. Patrick’s Day. They wound up raising $101,000 for cancer research that first year and a tradition was born.
Since then, various St. Baldrick’s events around the nation have raised $35.5 million dollars for pediatric cancer research.
Tom Leonhardt was one of those early organizers and he noted that pediatric cancer had not affected the families of any of them.
“That was our way of saying thanks,” he said. “How can we help?”
Leonhardt stressed the importance of the money raised over the last decade, saying much of it went to fund fellowships for those studying the disease and just as much went to tracking childhood cancer victims around the world.
Leonhardt said that people who contributed to the effort were numerous, but singled out specific public servants for their contributions to the St. Baldrick’s movement.
“Most importantly, it’s cops and firemen,” he said.
Although an actual cure for any type of cancer remains elusive, Leonhardt said that progress was definitely being made.
“It’s to the point where some forms of pediatric cancer are like the flu,” he said. “We’re getting there.”
Naperville Police Sgt. Tim Jordan has been involved with St. Baldrick’s since the inaugural 2005 event in the city and said that bringing the event back to this particular building was special. In 2005, the inaugural Naperville St. Baldrick’s event took place in what was then the Holiday Inn Select. Since then it has been hosted in other venues, such as North Central College and Players Indoor Sports Center.
“There’s a sense of satisfaction being back at what we considered home,” Jordan said.
And he couldn’t have been anything but pleased at how easily Naperville reached its goal of $75,000 for 2013.
“At 11 a.m. we were already $14 passed our goal,” he said.
But asked about the ultimate goal of the St. Baldrick’s movement and Jordan didn’t hesitate.
“Our goal is one more dollar than we need to eliminate pediatric cancer,” he said.
Although she still misses her little brother, Phoebe Pruenda struggled to find the silver lining in the dark cloud.
“The thing is, the darkness can teach us the beauty of the light,” she said.