Sharon Joseph's wavy golden locks bounced as she danced with a flock of little girls Saturday afternoon in the middle of the Westfield Hawthorn Mall. Yet moments later the Vernon Hills police officer's hair lay on the floor as she proudly showed off her newly bald head.
Joseph, along with her husband, Tony, their 9-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, and 5-year-old son, Ryan, had their heads shaved before an enthusiastic crowd at the police department's second annual St. Baldrick's Foundation event. The charity is dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research.
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Head-shaving fundraisers are scheduled this month throughout the suburbs. Signing up online to be a shavee is encouraged, but walk-ups are accepted. These are some of the events in the northern suburbs; event details are at StBaldricks.org.
March 10: Arlington Heights, Ingleside
March 16: Fox Lake, Libertyville, Lincolnshire
March 17: Grayslake, Palatine
March 20: Gurnee, North Lake
March 21: Arlington Heights
"Last year another female officer did it at the last minute, and I thought 'If she could do it, I could do it,'" Joseph said. "This is a family affair, and it's for a good reason."
Joseph's tone took a turn toward somber as she explained her brother was 24 when he was diagnosed with leukemia, an all-too-common childhood cancer.
"He fought for eight years ... he's been gone for seven," Joseph said.
Her family was among nearly two dozen individuals -- many of them fellow officers and village officials -- who signed up in advance and a few who stepped forward on the spot to have their heads shaved as a show of solidarity with sick children who have lost their own hair during cancer treatments.
Event organizer Officer Jim Koch said Saturday's event was dedicated to 5-year-old Connor. Connor, whose last name was withheld, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2011 and, after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, is hoping for clear test results this week.
"He knows we're all pulling for him," Koch said.
Koch, one of the shavees, said he's hopeful Saturday's efforts would bring in $15,000, topping the $13,000 raised in 2012.
"I have kids of my own; I'll do whatever I can do," Koch said. "Shaving your head is the easy part; the hard part is talking other people into doing it."