After the First St. Baldrick’s Event

The morning after the first St. Baldrick’s event in 2007, my 9-year-old son Liam burst into tears and heartfelt pleas about staying home from school that day. My wife and I were prepared for just this situation. We both knew that the night before had been magical and inspiring, but the prospect of going to school with a freshly shaved head was, this morning, more reality than Liam was prepared to accept. Liam was afraid he might be teased at school, and this was casting a heavy burden on this little man. I sat down with him and we talked about how lucky we both were that shaving our heads was an option for us, not a given due to illness and treatment. And I told my son how proud I was of his commitment to fighting childhood cancer. Liam pulled it together and stood a little taller that day as he walked out the door on his way to school. He and his friend’s efforts had a contagious effect inspiring over 60 kids to show up at the local RVC event at Madison Hall It has grown itself to an Annual Top 5 event for St Baldrick’s raising over $350,000 shaving over 200 heads at a clip at St Agnes Parish Center.

Eighteen years later, friends from those early days are still committed to raising funds for the charity as are friends from my current organization CyberMaxx, and other alumni and leaders across the tech industry. Our efforts have evolved to the #TechConquersKidsCancer movement tallying over $8,400,000 and our NYC event has raised in excess of $3,400,000 since inception and our compounded impact so much more.

How Bill and Joeys St. Baldrick’s Event Started

In the fall of 2005, Tom Mendoza and I hosted a CIO dinner at Tira Signo on Bleeker Street in NYC. John Lacava, then COO of QBE joined us along with 10 or so senior execs for an intimate dinner and great dialogue.

As dinner concluded and the topics of the evening had been thoroughly bandied about, I turned to John and asked him to give the background for his freshly sheared dome. John filled us in on how several years earlier he and three friends were having a business lunch and started a silly bet about shaving their heads for really no good reason. This silly discussion took a sudden turn when one of the execs threw out the challenge—raise money, shave heads, and donate funds to the fight against childhood cancer. In minutes, all bets were off and all execs were in for the fund-raising challenge. They decided that day to stand in solidarity with kids who lost their hair while going through treatment.

What has happened from there has been magical. Not only did they stand in solidarity, but they became walking billboards for the fight to find a cure. They raised over $100,000 their first year, surpassed that the next few years, saw people rally around their efforts, and inspired shaving parties all over NYC and then other cities.

By the time John was telling us this tale at the Tira Signo dinner, they had raised 17 million dollars and incorporated St. Baldrick’s.

How NetApp Got Involved

John Lacava had NetApp executive Joey Santamorena at hello and the attention quickly turned to me. I obliged the taunt and stated that shaving my head would be something I would do, but it was going to have to be bigger than just a few of us at the table participating before I would agree. “Bill and Joey’s Excellent Shaving Adventure” was born that night, coming to fruition just a few months after we learned about St. Baldrick’s.

Rob Salmon and Eric Mann Step Up to Get Shaved

Fellow NetApp Execs Eric Mann, Sr. VP of Americas Sales, and EVP Rob Salmon both attended the first “Excellent Shaving Adventure” event in NYC. Neither intended to shave, but both left without a hair on their head. Eric raised 25k on the spot, and with his wife’s blessing took a chair with the barbers. And Rob, after sharing an emotional story about a friend who was losing the battle with cancer, committed 10k, grabbed the clippers and started shaving his own head.

Joey Santamorena and I were the last shavees at that first event and after a long and emotional evening, we mugged for a photo—arm-in-arm with Rob and Eric, and the other shavees. We raised over $100,000 that night and something extraordinary started.

20 Years of Celebrities, Fun, and Inspiration

The St. Baldrick’s events are now a global affair. In total, Bill and Joey’s campaigns have hosted more than 100 shaving events worldwide. Often the shaving parties include a celebrity appearance. Justin Tuck, of the NY Giants has been a mainstay at our NYC events shaving heads and adding to the general excitement. Chicago hosted Justin’s former teammates at Notre Dame, RyannGrant and Corey Mays. The 2013 Boston event included Patriots players including Rob Gronkowski and cheerleaders from the Celtics Josh Stamer, a former linebacker, has participated in RTP, and James Edwards and Vinny Johnson made an appearance in Detroit.

The celebrities, the party atmosphere, and the fun had by all at each event kept the mood light, but as you can imagine, as each head is shaved and each story told, the emotions run high. Childhood cancer is an insidious disease that terrifies the parent in all of us. As each grown-up takes his or her place in the chairs and offers their hair to the barbers, we’re all reminded of the blessings in our own lives. It’s inspirational, really. But nothing can describe what it’s like to see a child, nervous and unsure, walk to the stage and accept the signature green cape, offering their own locks to stand in solidarity with all the children living with the horrible burden of a terminal illness. It’s the kids we’re doing this for, and the kids who really inspire each of us to get involved in funding the search for a cure.

Companies’ support of their employee’s efforts is a major boost

NetApp’s commitment to supporting the charitable work of its employees was surely a driving factor behind the early and sustained success of the St. Baldrick’s events hosted by individuals across the world. Their partners and alliances were terrific in their support and as key employees took their talents to new companies across the industry that level of support has been sustaining, contagious, and inspired new levels of support. There are many charities that employers support and St. Baldrick’s is just one of many opportunities we have to give back and get involved. The fact that St Baldrick’s has grown to the largest private fundraiser for pediatric cancer research in the world with almost 90% of all monies raised going directly to research makes it a great charity to rally around.

I wish I had the space to call out every person who has made a difference through their participation, at any level, with St. Baldrick’s. Current and former NetApp and Security Scorecard employees, along with Fortinet, SAP, BMC, UIPath, Varonis, WWT, Mainline RTP, Gotham, Vast and so many employees, leaders, customers, partners, families, and friends, all standing together on behalf of kids battling this terrible disease. Twelve years later we stand at thousands of shavees and volunteers and more than $8,4000,000 donated. Thank you to you all!

#TechTacklesCancer now must take it to the next level

Individuals like Tina Ashmalian and her efforts at SAP, Chris Lynch and his efforts in Boston, George Ballantoni from BMC, Ryan McGinty at Vast, Rob Benoit, Brian Mooney, Dan Bentson at NetApp, Berk Mesta and Eric Mann, Jim Klein at Fortinet, Matt Horner and Joe Koenig from WWT and of course, Joey Santamorena at MainlineRTP and Liam Hogan and Alex Rich at Security Scorecard and those that have engaged over the years have paved the way for more individuals and companies to get behind this. Mark Parrinello, Rick Congdon, and Mike Sweeney are some of the industry’s best who have braved the shave.

The power of one to mobilize the actions of many can come together and find not only the cure and but also find ways that improve the quality of lives of the kids once cured.

We have done a lot. We can do more. We need individuals to lead the way.

The work here will not stop until no child has to endure the struggles of this insidious disease.

2024 Call to Action

Join us on April 8th at Gibney’s in NYC, start your own team of shavees and or join our team and encourage and inspire others to do the same. If you can’t do that please consider donating again. Every donation helps add power to the tech community and can rally around the effort to help fund our efforts to fund a cure!!!

For the kids.

Bill Hogan
CyberMaxx CRO