By Sir Bodie Centore, Knight of the Bald Table, now age 17
My Buckets for St. Baldrick’s fundraiser, a 3v3 basketball tournament held in Syracuse, NY, raised over $10,000 for childhood cancer research on March 20th. While this event surpassed my fundraising goal, it also had an impact even more significant than anything I had experienced in 10 years of fundraising for St. Baldrick’s.
I became involved with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation 10 years ago after hearing about the local Syracuse, NY event at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub & Restaurant from family and friends. I was intrigued, but as a 7-year-old, very nervous about having my head shaved. Earlier that year, I spent several days in the hospital with pneumonia. I didn’t understand cancer much then, I couldn’t even spell it, but I knew I hadn’t enjoyed my time at the hospital and I didn’t think kids should have to go through anything like that.Bodie at his first shave with Emcee Chow Downey
With this in mind, I decided to shave. I called my family members and wrote a letter that I took door-to-door asking for donations. I surpassed my goal and raised over $3,000.
That first year I began using two fundraising tactics that helped me greatly over the next eight years of shaving: a hand-written letter to ask for donations, and a similarly hand-written, personalized thank you note after receiving them.
The day of my first shave in 2012, I was filled with nervous excitement. When it was over, I said it “tickled so much it hurt,” but also that I felt “spectacular.” I had two main takeaways: I wanted to do it again, and I wanted to go bigger.
The next year, I raised my goal, but more importantly, started my own team. We raised $10,000, and shaving with a team of my friends made St. Baldrick’s even more fun.
In 2014, the Baldacious Baldies grew bigger and we raised $16,000. Some students from Syracuse University did a short movie about us and we were featured in the local newspaper. It all felt very cool to 9 year-old-me. I loved checking the Top of the Charts board every day to see where I ranked, and for the first time I was near the top of the list.
When I turned 10, I started to gain a better understanding of cancer when I met a child, 4-year old Ocasio, who had a brain tumor and was given only a few months to live. Ocasio was one of my honored kids that year, and meeting him inspired me to fight harder for kids with cancer as I was shocked by the devastation the disease caused. I began to raise more money and to build my team by recruiting more friends.
By my 6th year, I gained even more determination to raise the most money possible when our family friend’s baby, Archer, was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor at 7 months old, and a girl in my class, McKenna, was diagnosed with leukemia.Bodie with Archie and his family
Each year I added more fundraising methods. I put jars out at local businesses and emptied them every week, and I collected bottles and cans under the slogan “All the pennies count!” I wrote a rap and made a beat on Garageband and posted it to my page. That year I was the No. 1 fundraiser at Kitty Hoynes, raising over $16,000. The Baldacious Baldies had grown to 25 members and raised $37,000.
Going into my 8th year of shaving, I met a boy named Charlie, who was two years older than me who had a DIPG brain tumor, which has no viable treatments. I was moved by the way he talked about his cancer, and his ability to be so composed about it at such a young age. That year, I started speaking at local Rotary clubs and my church, and worked with a local gym on a charity workout. By now, I was immensely motivated to fundraise by all of the kids I had met, especially Charlie, as I saw someone my age battling cancer, and understood how difficult of a thing that would be. I raised $27,000 that year, my team raised $54,000, and I was named a Knight of the Bald table for shaving for 8 years.
Charlie died in August 2019. I was stunned and upset when I found out, but at that moment, I knew I would try my hardest to raise as much as possible in his honor for my final shave when I was in eighth grade. In my letter that year, I wrote that my goal was to “inspire others as I had been inspired.” I made another video, increased all of my usual fundraising activities, and pushed my team members to raise as much as they could. Ultimately, I was able to raise over $31,000, and my team raised nearly $55,000. I was the No. 1 fundraiser at Kitty Hoynes, and my team was the No. 1 team at Kitty Hoynes. It was an incredible last shave.
I shaved for 8 years and in 7 years the Baladacious Baldies raised over $250,000.The Baldacious Baldies post-shave
More Importantly, Ocasio, Archer and McKenna are all now cancer free.
After my last shave I wanted to continue supporting St. Baldrick’s, but I wanted to keep my hair. I didn’t know how I could help without shaving. I filmed a video with legendary event emcee Chow Downey at Kitty Hoynes to promote the next shave, but COVID hit and everything was canceled for two years. It was frustrating that I couldn’t help. I knew, when I could, I wanted to do something bigger, I just didn’t know what.
Inspiration came after volunteering at a soccer shootout fundraiser. I thought I could do something similar with basketball. Basketball is the most popular sport in my school district from elementary school through high school, and I have great memories of going to basketball camps there and playing in 3v3 round-robin tournaments. Kids love participating in these types of tournaments.
I wanted to host a basketball tournament for kids and hold it in late March during the NCAA tournament to benefit from the basketball craze that descends upon my school district during the NCAA tournament time.
I discovered St. Baldrick’s “Do What You Want” fundraiser option, where you can create any fundraiser you want with their support, and I knew this was a perfect fit.
However, I was nervous of what others would think about my idea, and didn’t tell anyone outside of my family for a few months.
The first person I told was my former JV basketball coach and gym teacher, who loves basketball and runs multiple basketball camps and leagues. I was incredibly nervous, but he was extremely supportive right away and offered to help. I reached out to more school officials to get their approval, with similar levels of anxiety, and everyone strongly supported the idea. But it was already December, and if I wanted the event to happen in March, things would have to get done fast.
At this time, I was busy balancing running track and performing in the school musical, and I felt like I had no time to plan the event, yet the weeks kept slipping by. I considered pushing it back a few months but I knew this wasn’t what I wanted.
I wanted to get back to raising money for childhood cancer research, and fighting for the kids battling the disease. On the last possible day, I submitted paperwork for school board approval of the event. With that, Buckets for St. Baldrick’s was official for March 20, only two months away.
There was no turning back now.
I created my fundraising page on the St. Baldrick’s site, wrote my letter and worked with my old coach to develop the registration form. We started promoting the event with flyers, school announcements and social media posts. I designed a T-shirt with the help of our high school art teacher, and with the help of an old shaving teammate, reached out to local grocery stores for food donations. On top of that, I sent emails to business owners asking for sponsorships to cover my event costs. I wanted every penny possible to go to St. Baldrick’s.
By February, I had sponsors and donors, a T-shirt design and many old Baldacious Baldies lined up to referee. We received bracelets, T-shirts, pins, and buckets from St. Baldrick’s, and designed promotional posters and posters thanking our sponsors. I set a goal to get 40 teams and $5,000 raised.
Everything was coming together and there was seemingly an incredible amount of community support, but two weeks away from the registration deadline, we had just a handful of teams registered and just over $1,000 in donations.
Thankfully, as the weeks progressed, the teams rolled in and the brackets started filling up. The day before the event, we went to the school to hang the St. Baldrick’s banners, get the TV working to stream the March Madness games, and set everything else up. When we were done, I was confident we were going to have a great event.
The morning of Buckets for St. Baldrick’s, the gym buzzed with excitement as the first division of second and third graders arrived. Parents filled the bleachers to watch, something I hadn’t expected, and the gym was electric. I kicked off the event with a quick speech and we were finally underway.Bodie recruited many of his Baldacious Baldies team members to volunteer at the tournament Bodie checking the brackets
A decade of fundraising for St. Baldrick’s and a year of planning had led to this incredible event, and it felt great to see my idea that once seemed far-fetched become a reality. The energy throughout the school was immense, with kids, parents, coaches, and volunteers all coming together over basketball to fight for the cause. We had families in the stands touched by recent cancer diagnoses and two teams supporting Luke’s Army, another St. Baldrick’s fundraising powerhouse. Many people were so moved by the kindness of the fundraiser that they donated at the door, and we raised $500 more that way.
The tournament truly portrayed the basketball frenzy that is March Madness, somewhat flying by the seat of its pants the whole day. I also never expected the strong sense of community that was created by the tournament, and in some ways, I felt like I was having an even bigger impact than when I shaved my head. To have my idea finally come to fruition, and have it create such a community effort for children’s cancer research was truly amazing, and a completely new feeling I had not yet experienced in my journey with St. Baldrick’s.
The tournament has now raised over $10,000, but more importantly, hopefully, sent a ripple effect of good deeds and hope throughout our community.
Support Bodie’s Buckets for St. Baldrick’s by donating here
Read more on the St. Baldrick’s blog:
Our hearts are broken at the loss of Campbell, a 2021 St. Baldrick’s Ambassador. She died on February 22, 2021. Her mom, Gibby shared …
“Campbell Barrett Sullivan our absolute joy passed away this morning due to a brain hemorrhage brought on by CIC-DUX4 Sarcoma. We are absolutely broken-hearted, not sure how we will go on without her, but we will!
She brought so much passion and love to every day, whether it was sending cheer through a card, or in person, reaching out online, determined to advocate for other kids even when she felt the worst herself. There are days when she would open her eyes just to give an interview and be clear and passionate as ever just to fall asleep exhausted as soon as she was off the video call.
One thing she would want me to tell you is that cancer is NOT a win or lose battle and that is because no child chooses this fight. It’s not a competition and so you can’t lose to cancer. Campbell rose to this challenge and figured out a way to grow and spread joy and passion like ripples across the water.
Sitting in the hospital looking out the window I thought that’s what we will do, try to be a window for the light of Campbell to shine through. We love you all and she did too! Please be good to yourself and others.”
Beautiful soul. Positive thinker. People person. Seattle Seahawks fan. St. Baldrick’s supporter. Cancer survivor.
In 2017, I was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It was a shock. I immediately started my first of six rounds of chemotherapy. Every month, I would have to go inpatient for one week for treatment. Unfortunately, I relapsed two months after completing that. I then got a second opinion and did two clinical trials, and when those failed, I went on to Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) in New York. One trial failed, but the next finally got me to remission, allowing me to get a transplant.
Editor’s Note: We’ve let Jake, the founder of Resilience Gives, tell us his experience of dealing with uncertainty during treatment.
After a few hours of watching carboplatin steadily drip into my bloodstream, I was relieved when my friend Alex poked her head around the corner of the oversized hospital room door. It was day three of my first inpatient stay since beginning my medical leave of absence, and Alex was the first non-family visitor. When she placed her hand beneath the Purell dispenser, I could see a game tucked underneath her arm.
The League of Legendary Heroes is an order of dedicated volunteers who’ve participated in St. Baldrick’s Foundation events for three or more years. Each year, St. Baldrick’s names a League Champion to lead and inspire this group to raise money for lifesaving childhood cancer research.
Georgia Moore, our newest League Champion of the League of Legendary Heroes, just celebrated her 19th birthday on Dec. 30. The following day, New Year’s Eve, marked nine years since Georgia was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Our 2019 League Champion, Georgia Moore (third from left), appears with her family at Tufts University.
Most six-year-old boys spend their time thinking about toys, candy and getting to school on time. Few need to worry about their health at such a young age, and even fewer face the uncertain future following a cancer diagnosis.
Fighting cancer was Zach’s world when he was six. In 2007, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. Over the next four years, Zach underwent intense and physically demanding treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
What should you say to someone whose loved one has died? Vicki Bunke has some simple advice that comes from heartbreaking experience — her 14-year-old daughter, Honored Kid Grace, died of bone cancer in March. Here’s what Vicki has to say …
Vicki’s daughter Grace grins and laughs in her mom’s arms. Grace was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when she was 11 years old and lost part of her leg to the disease. After her third relapse, she knew her disease was terminal but remained determined to experience everything life had to offer. Photo by Ashton Songer Photography
For 20 years, I have had the privilege of working as a school psychologist. I am honored to get up every morning and go to a job where I get to spend hour after hour interacting with young people. Sadly, this past spring, a young student who attended the high school where I work — and whom I loved dearly — died of osteosarcoma, a childhood bone cancer.
This student happened to be my 14-year-old daughter, Grace.
Honored Kid Zoe was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when she was a teenager. Now, almost four years after finishing treatment and getting the news that the cancer was gone, Zoe is taking a look at what she’s learned during her cancer — and cancer-free — journey.
Honored Kid Zoe Wagner is now 19 years old and has been cancer free for four years.
The anticipation of upcoming milestones and the overall exploratory nature of the teenage years make the age of 15 a common time to be naïve – and naive I was. Life was simple and my carefree spirit allowed me to believe it would always be that way. This trusting nature also led me to ignore the severity of the disease symptoms I was having for months. As these symptoms got worse, my uncomplicated mind created uncomplicated explanations for the way I was feeling. I told myself that I was always tired because I was a teenager, and that this exhaustion was the cause of my daily headaches. I blamed my newly heavy periods on ordinary hormonal changes, bruising on being clumsy, unusually pale skin on it simply not being sunny enough out, and weight loss on, well, it happens. It wasn’t until red needle-prick like dots appeared all over my legs that I requested to go to the doctor.
The STAR Act — the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill ever introduced on Capitol Hill — was just passed by the Senate and now heads to the House, backed by the support of Members of Congress, families, survivors and advocates like YOU. Why is this bill so important? Rachael Kittleson, the mom to a teen who had a pediatric brain tumor, will tell you …
Rachael (middle) smiles with Kelsey (right) and her little sister, Avery.
There is nothing in life that prepares you for the words, “Your daughter has a large tumor on the left side of her brain.” There is nothing in life that prepares you for telling your husband devastating news about his girl. And there is certainly nothing in life that prepares you for how to keep your teenage daughter calm as you say, “You have to go to the hospital, but you are going to be fine.”
I think back on watching my daughter Kelsey perform on stage or playing on the soccer and lacrosse fields. I think of the cancer breaking into her brain silently and lying in wait, like a burglar.
Kelsey was an energetic teenager and an accomplished athlete, playing both soccer and lacrosse.
For me, three years ago was such a time of pride and excitement as I watched our oldest daughter start to come into her own. She was an honors student, athlete, lead in the school musical, tutor and musician. While she was a normal teenage girl excited about things like her dress and date for her 8th grade dance, there was something else going on with Kelsey. The cancer was barely perceptible and easily dismissed, but it would eventually, most cruelly, take everything from her a piece at a time.
As Kelsey’s spring schedule was in full swing, the tumor started to make itself known in innocuous ways – ways I easily brushed aside as a mother. I had no idea this was the beginning and the beast would be in full control in just a couple of months. As Kelsey’s symptoms progressed, an MRI was ordered for August 27, 2015. That day would change our lives forever.
Older Posts »