W. Chicago cops shave heads, raise over $13,000 for cancer research

  • Hair stylist Kelly Wirtanen shaves the head of West Chicago police officer Waylon Potts during a St. Baldrick's Day event Sunday. Potts was one of the event's co-organizers. The event was held at Hawthorne's Backyard Bar & Grill and raised more than $13,000.

      Hair stylist Kelly Wirtanen shaves the head of West Chicago police officer Waylon Potts during a St. Baldrick's Day event Sunday. Potts was one of the event's co-organizers. The event was held at Hawthorne's Backyard Bar & Grill and raised more than $13,000. Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

 
 

If bald is beautiful, then West Chicago police officer Robbi Peterson might look as good as he ever has. The 40-year-old shaved his head Sunday for the first time in his life, all in the name of charity.

"I couldn't be happier but I have had a head of hair since I was born," he said before his date with the stylist's clippers. "I just hope it comes back."

Around 40 residents, officers and even city officials chopped their locks off Sunday at West Chicago Police Department's first St. Baldrick's Day fundraiser at Hawthorne's Backyard Bar & Grill. But Peterson was clearly the main attraction at the event, which benefits children's cancer research.

Even before the emcee called out his name, officers knew it was his turn and let out a loud cheer. You see, for years, they have referred to Peterson's hair as "Fonzie Hair."

As the event's emcee, officer Tony Quarto put it, "If a bald guy could pick out his hair, they would pick his."

Last year, they tried in vain to get him to join a team that would participate in a similar event being hosted by the Kane County Sheriff.

When they asked him this year, he issued a challenge: Come up with $5,000 - more than double the $2,000 raised last year - and he would part with it. When the event began, they had already raised nearly $13,000.

One of the event's co-organizers, Waylon Potts, said the support received from the community and the city of West Chicago was overwhelming and critical to the event's success.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Potts and fellow organizer Marty Griffin attended a city council meeting to help promote the event and the reaction was large and immediate.

Businesses and residents from the community donated everything from money to auction and raffle items. Among the 60 or so items up for auction and raffle were autographed photos of Mark Wahlberg, flight lessons, and an autographed Chicago Bulls pennant.

Police Chief Don Goncher said seeing his officers give back to the community can only result in good things.

"It's to let the community know that we are there and there is another side to us," he said. "We are out there to enforce the law and protect. This is just another way we can protect the community."

It's a fact of life for police officers that they often see children in horrible conditions when responding to calls. It's because of this that Peterson said children's cancer research was a cause that police could really appreciate.

"I have four little ones, and I've been blessed that all have been healthy," he said. "But knowing so many families who face the adversity of this deadly disease, it's the least I can do."

When Peterson issued his $2,000 challenge, he said he had a gut feeling the department would reach it easily. After Peterson saw his hair on the floor, he said it was worth it because he was doing something good for the community.

"It just shows that it's more than just getting a paycheck or wearing a badge," he said. "It's standing behind everything the badge represents."