December 5, 2021

St. Baldrick’s event in Cortland raises cash for cancer research

Shave and a haircut: $30,000

Photos by Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

Paul Sandy keeps a stiff upper lip as his mustache is shaved Saturday during the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in 2018. Sandy had the mustache for the past 42 years.

CORTLAND — Cortland City Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy stopped halfway through his toast. His words had a choke hold on his throat. A tear ran down the right side of his face.

He had lost the mustache he had for 42 years. But that’s not the reason he stopped.

Ten-year-old Colin Hayward Toland, who was sworn into the Ithaca Police Department in 2016, is battling terminal brain cancer. He is fighting for his last breath, Sandy said.

“He has fought back several times,” Sandy said. “He is an amazing young man. Anything I can do to help, I’m going to do.”

Sandy in the moments before he shaved his mustache of 42 years.

He and about 40 other people took part in the St. Baldrick’s Day event at the Red Jug Pub in Cortland, Saturday, shaving off either facial hair or the hair on top of their head. In total, everyone who participated in the Cortland event raised about $30,000 — almost double what was raised last year.

Sandy raised $4,500 alone.

“We raised a lot of money this year,” said Tom Terwilliger, owner of the Red Jug Pub, who also took part in the event, having his beard trimmed. “It is for a good cause.”

Terwilliger, who has lost members of his family to cancer, has hosted a St. Baldrick’s Day event about nine times across his various Red Jug Pub locations. This year was the fifth year he hosted it at his Cortland location.

“There are many great stories here,” Terwilliger said.

Sandy post-shave feeling the new air flow.

A 4-year-old battling leukemia got the opportunity to shave a woman’s head. Fay Benson, who works for Cornell Cooperative Extension, attended the event with his wife to share the story of their daughter — a 10-year cancer survivor.

Benson said while the money donated is great, he appreciates the open friendliness of everyone and their willingness to help the cause.

“I appreciate the people who support St. Baldrick’s,” Benson said. “There can be good endings.”

In 2017, more than 41,000 people nationwide had their head or beard shaved and more than $39 million was raised, according to St. Baldrick’s website. So far, $14 million has been raised this year.

People who sign up to be shaved, called “shavees,” sign up online and collect donations from friends and family, much like a walk-a-thon. Then they show up to the location and get shaved. Not everyone shaved a head. Some get their beards shaved and others can simply donate. The event is for all ages, too.

There were open opportunities for anyone to get shaved at the Red Jug Pub’s event. On Saturday alone, Tully resident Leo Doody raised $308 to have his beard, about a foot long, shaved off.

“It is the least I can do,” Doody said.

While it may take a while for Sandy to grow back the mustache he started growing at 14 years old, he said he plans to stay involved with the St. Baldrick’s event. He will look into putting teams of people together to take part in the event and maybe get people involved who never thought of doing so before.

After taking a breath to ease the words of tribute for Toland out of his throat, he raised his glass with the close to 100 other people in the bar. He then had to ease back into a life with no mustache.

“There’s a draft,” Sandy said.

That didn’t last long. Someone quickly stuck a fake mustache on his upper lip, accenting a new smile.