East Islip High School Principal William Brennen and his 10-year-old son Will both bravely went under the barber’s buzzer on March 16, emerging bald but proud of their efforts to help the St. Baldrick’s Foundation
Sponsored by the school’s Honor Society, St. Baldrick’s Day has become an annual event in East Islip, in which volunteers shave their heads to raise money for childhood cancer research. A worldwide phenomenon, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation inaugurated these charitable festivities a dozen years ago, and has since grown into the largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research. Over 189,660 volunteers have shaved off their hair in solidarity with children with cancer, raising over $117 million.
“My son Will and I have shaved our heads twice in the last three years to honor his kindergarten friend Kaylee Rivers, who died of neuroblastoma at the age of seven, and to raise money for much-needed cancer research,” explained Brennen. “All week long, Will was bugging me, saying ‘Dad, do you promise that we’re going to shave our heads on Friday for kids like Kaylee?’ It’s difficult to describe how proud I am of my son and his desire to always help those in need. He is my inspiration, and it was amazing to share the St. Baldrick’s experience with him again.”
High school junior Brandi Smigiel played an important supporting role in the event, helping maximize student participation and donations. Losing her colorful locks, Smigiel shaved her head in honor of her mother, a cancer survivor.
“Brandi is a wonderful, compassionate young woman who is extremely active in the art and music programs here at the high school,” said guidance counselor Jessica Pignataro. “She created a YouTube video to promote her fundraising efforts, and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. She told me that students she had never even met were approaching her in school to make donations. I think this says so much – not only about Brandi, but about her peers who came together to help her meet and exceed her fundraising goal. I am so incredibly proud of her.”