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Bay Area Rescuers Shave Heads for Charity

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Firefighters in Newark, Calif., regularly risk their lives, but a baker's dozen of Newark first-responders will make another sort of sacrifice for the greater good: They'll shave their heads for charity Monday.

On St. Patrick's Day, the volunteers will head to Children's Hospital Oakland, where they will lose their locks to raise money for cancer research and to show solidarity with young cancer patients whose chemotherapy leaves them bald.

John Hill, a Newark firefighter/paramedic, said the 13 local firefighters who plan to clip their coifs have just about reached their goal of $10,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which grants money for cancer research.

"Nobody's gotten a haircut since January," he said. "One of the captains we've got said it's like being back in the'70s."

Hill of San Ramon said this is the first time the department has been part of the fundraiser, which debuts at the hospital between 5 and 9 p.m. Monday. He said San Francisco firefighters also are participating.

Lisa Baracker, whose son, Isaac, had a brain tumor removed and is going through chemotherapy, is organizing the event. She said more than 100 people are set to go bald for the charity, including herself.

The Berkeley resident said she at first was reluctant to shave her head because she has been looking for work since being laid off a year ago as a biochemist in Emeryville.

Yet friends convinced her that the gesture would show her commitment to a cause and give her something to talk about in interviews.

"It's just hair," she said of skeptical potential employers. "If people wouldn't want to hire me for that, I probably wouldn't want to work for them anyway."

The St. Baldrick's tradition has grown from a score of people who shaved their heads in 2000 at a New York City bar, to an annual event that has inspired more than 46,000 "shavees" worldwide to raise more than $34 million.

In addition to donating money to the Oakland children's hospital, the Pasadena-based foundation has given grants for research at Stanford University and the UCSF School of Medicine.

Baracker said she hopes to raise $100,000 for the foundation, as well as make people more aware of childhood cancer.

"If I can do it, anybody can," she said. "We want to make the kids laugh by showing them we understand what they're going through."

To learn more about the foundation, visit the Web site http://www.StBaldricks.org or call 888-899-BALD.

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