December 1, 2021

Principals celebrate St. Baldrick’s Day with a shave for cancer research

Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Jordan Ashley, principal of Barry Elementary School, gets his head shaved Thursday in front of the whole school to raise money in support of St. Baldrick's, which funds childhood cancer research.

Jordan Ashley watched his hair fall off his head Thursday in front of a hooting and cheering crowd of elementary school students.

Angelo DiPietro, owner of Angelo’s Barber Shop on Hubbard Street, ran the electric razor over Ashley’s head, made small talk, and used his hand to brush aside any stray pieces.

“It hasn’t been this short since I was 10,” Ashley said afterward as he looked at his fallen locks. In college, he had almost shoulder-length hair.

The Barry Elementary School principal had his head shaved for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in advance of Saturday’s event at the Red Jug Pub in Cortland.

He’s not the only one from the Cortland School District to shed a head of hair to raise money for childhood cancer research. Randall Elementary School Principal Cliff Kostuk also had his head shaved at the same time in front of his school, and Cortland High School Principal John Zarcone will shave his head in April.

Kostuk said he had raised about $2,400; and Ashley had raised a bit more than $600.

It will all be added to the cause, said Tom Terwilliger, owner of the Red Jug Pub in Cortland where about 45 heads are expected to be shaved Saturday.

It will be Terwilliger’s sixth year hosting the event at the Cortland pub.

As of Thursday, Terwilliger said $19,174 had been raised but he expects more to come in Saturday. Last year, the event raised $30,000 and over the past six years has raised $110,000.

A child is diagnosed with cancer about every two minutes, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation reports.

The death rate from cancer has declined steadily over the past two decades in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, but cancer remains the second-most common cause of death among children ages 1 to 14.

For the school administrators, shaving their heads was a chance to set an example.

“It was a good experience for the kids to learn something about being kind, we’re trying to teach them that this year,” Ashley said. “Giving to others and supporting those in need.”

Kostuk said he got support from the school district, students, his relatives, friends, church members and civic organizations.
He was approached by a parent of the school who is also involved in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“She asked if I wouldn’t mind doing this and I was like, ‘Sure, it’s a simple thing,’ it’s not like hair doesn’t grow back and it’s a good cause,” Kostuk said. “And I thought people may feel sorry for me, an old retiree — and jump on board and participate.”

Kostuk said he set a goal of raising $1,000, which he was happy to report he crashed through.