Over Memorial Day weekend, dozens of people gathered at North Park’s Mike Hess Brewing Company to shave their heads bald. And in doing so they raised over 60 thousand dollars for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to pediatric cancer research.
3812 Grim Avenue, North Park
“Pediatric cancers are not the same as adult cancers,” explains brewery namesake Mike Hess. Last year his then 12-year-old daughter Keely was diagnosed with the bone cancer osteosarcoma. In the months that followed she spent two weeks in a coma after her leg was amputated above the knee, and lost her hair amid 18 rounds of chemotherapy. Hess and his wife Lynda spent months supporting their daughter at a UC Davis hospital.
“Nobody had the answers,” he says, “because there’s not a lot of research being done on osteosarcoma.”
When Hess returned to San Diego, he learned his brewers had developed a recipe for a witbier with beets, dubbed Beet Cancer, hoping to release it as a fundraiser to help pay for Keely’s treatment. Because of health insurance Hess didn’t need the money. The brewery organized a Beet Cancer event around the beer and raised $6500 for pediatric fundraisers The Pablove Foundation and The Truth 365.
“Back in the beginning, when Keely lost her hair and I shaved her head,” recalls Hess, “my brother Greg said we should shave our heads too. Four months later we realized we could do it and raise money.”
Enter St. Baldrick’s. Similar to walkathons, participants raise donations from friends and family behind a promise to shave their head. The Hess team organized a fundraising web page through St. Baldrick’s.
“Then we started getting people who we didn’t even know,” reports Hess. “There was a husband and wife,” he recounts, “saw [a KUSI newscast about the event]that morning. The husband looked at his wife and said, we should go do that. And they showed up and shaved their heads.”
Keely recently fitted for a prosthetic, and with her final round of chemo slated for June, she expects to be able to return to school this fall after missing a year for treatment.