The Red Jug Pub in Cortland was filled Saturday during the St. Baldrick’s Foundation shaving fundraiser with the roar of people talking, music blaring and blades buzzing. That was until Luke Zuber got up on stage and shared his story dealing with cancer.
Zuber, 26, talked about going through two rounds of cancer by age 4 and becoming epileptic and having seizures frequently before being treated and then re-diagnosed with cancer again at 13 that required brain surgery that left the right side of his body paralyzed.
That experience, which has left him with a limp when he walks, helped change his perspective on life.
“If we can understand and acknowledge that death is, and can be, right around the corner, I think that we can be more happy, more grateful for things and more loving overall,” he said.
About 24 community members’ heads and facial hair were shaved during the event to raise funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research, said Red Jug Pub Coowner Tom Terwilliger.
Another roughly 40 people came out in support of the event and could purchase raffle tickets to help raise funds.
“I’m impressed that all these people showed up considering” the circumstances of the coronvirus pandemic, Terwilliger said. “It’s been a great turn out.”
As of Saturday evening, the event raised over $30,000 with a $50,000 goal, according to the pub’s St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraising webpage.
Ryan Card, of Homer, was one of the attendees getting his head and his 9-inch-long beard shaved.
Saturday was the first time since last year’s St. Baldrick’s event that he shaved his beard.
“It’s a good cause,” he said. “I have children and I just can’t imagine if one of my children had cancer.”
While he wasn’t sure how much money he had raised Saturday, he said that when he participated last year, he raised $1,285.
“I think whatever we can do to fund or help research for any sorts of childhood cancer, it’s a good thing to do,” he said.
Also participating were 10 members of the Cortland Fire Department, said firefighter Will Fox.
Fox and other members participated at the department’s station to be cautious with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He said that as firefighters, they don’t know if they’ve come into contact with people who may have the virus during emergency medical services calls and because of this risk, they need to keep a greater distance than the general population.
“Because we interact with people who are unwell, there’s a higher likelihood that we might be carriers as well,” he said.
Fox said that the firefighters raised over $3,000 to shave their heads.
“I’m really glad we could be a part of it even though it’s not exactly how we thought it was going to be and we look forward to doing it every year,” he said.
After sharing his story, Zuber said that he hopes no other child has to face what he did and that funding from the event could help “Every child deserves the right to live a strong, healthy life and those that are not given that opportunity, that’s why we’re here,” Zuber said.