FULTON — It’s a cause that hits home for Fulton Police Chief Craig Westbrook.
Westbrook’s daughter, Allison, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2018 when she was 3. When the annual St. Baldrick’s event rolled around in 2019, Westbrook agreed to shave what hair he had left to raise money, and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.
This year, Westbrook alone has raised more than $1,100 leading up to the March 29 event at the Lake Ontario Event & Conference Center, and the Fulton Police Benevolent Association team is joined by New York State Police Troop D Zone 3, Phoenix Police, Fulton Firefighters and more local organizations in raising funds to battle childhood cancer.
“Obviously, I was looking to help any way I could so I reached out to the men and women here. They all knew what I was going through at home and everyone was willing to jump on board,” Westbrook said.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which was created in 2004, is a volunteer- and donor-led effort aimed at providing funding to conquer childhood cancer. The foundation supplies more funding for childhood cancer research grants than any organization other than the U.S. government, and raised nearly $36 million last year nationwide. In the 13 years Oswego has participated, more than $770,000 has been raised locally, officials said, with more than $85,000 raised in 2019 alone.
Westbrook said his wife, Anita, knew Dan Witmer, the volunteer event coordinator of the St. Baldrick’s event in Oswego County. Witmer had reached out to law enforcement about participating in the past, but Westbrook’s story spurred even more people to get involved.
“I reached out to all the contacts I had in law enforcement and sent a letter to every agency in the county,” said Westbrook, who raised more than $1,300 last year.
For Witmer, seeing people from all walks of life — law enforcement, firefighters and beyond — come together makes the event special. The Fulton Police Benevolent Association team is currently the top fundraiser with more than $1,800, wile NYSP Troop D Zone 3 is third with nearly $1,000.
"I think it's great that these first responders support our cause, and they have since some of our earliest years,” Witmer said. “We had fire trucks come to the event a couple of times, and we had Sheriff Todd agree to an impromptu shave one year, too. Now when they come to shave, I see some of my former Hannibal High School students, childhood friends of my sons', and other familiar faces. It's all very gratifying."
Westbrook is bald most of the year but does what he can to grow his hair out to have something to cut on the big day. Instead of shaving his head on a daily basis, he lets it grow out for a couple of months.
“It’s still not much,” Westbrook said. “It’s still more than I would normally have.”
Westbrook’s daughter Allison, now 5 years-old, is in maintenance after treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse. Westbrook believes St. Baldrick’s has contributed to some of the cancer research that helped his daughter.
“It’s great to know that they’re wiling to come together,” Westbrook said of the community. “By adding the personal touch … they can put a face to the situation and they recognize someone they know is going through it.”
For more information on how to donate or join along in the 14th Annual St. Baldrick’s Day in Oswego County, go to https://www.stbaldricks.org/events/OswegoCounty2020. This Wednesday, Feb. 5, Fajita Grill in Oswego will host a St. Baldrick’s Foundation Fundraiser with a percentage of all sales between 5 and 9 p.m. going to support the St. Baldrick’s mission.