Jeanne Sager | Democrat
ROSCOE FIRE CHIEF Steve Chesney was only too happy to look like a cross between “Larry” and “Curly” of the “Three Stooges” for a good cause. Michelle Browne of Michelle’s Magic Mirror does the shaving.
'Band of Brothers' answers the call
By Jeanne Sager
ROSCOE They don’t call them a band of brothers for nothing.
When Roscoe-Rockland Fire Chief Steve Chesney put out a call to members of his department and surrounding volunteers that he’d be shaving his head to fight children’s cancer, he didn’t give them a lot of notice.
He’d just read a story about St. Baldrick’s, the national non-profit that schedules the bulk of its fundraisers around St. Patrick’s Day, head-shaving events that bring in pledges to fight the childhood cancer cause. With St. Patrick’s Day closing in, Chesney put out the word three weeks ago that he was scheduling a Roscoe St. Baldrick’s for March 21.
He lined up barbers Michelle Browne of Michelle’s Magic Mirror reworked her client schedule to set up a chair at the firehouse, and Chesney’s neighbor, Gregg Collins, pulled out his clippers.
Chesney and wife Lisa started fundraising too, touting their cause in the tough economy.
“It was better than I thought it was going to be,” Steve said. “I think people still believe in a good cause.”
At least 22 people believe in it enough to go bald.
Twenty firemen from Roscoe-Rockland and surrounding departments settled in three chairs set up in the meeting room at the firehouse on Union Street and let the clippers buzz off hair and beards.
Fire Commissioner Don Walters hasn’t been clean shaven in 15 years. By mid-day, everyone in town knew what the owner of the Fairway Inn looked like without his wavy red hair and curly red beard: younger.
Barry Fletcher Sr. lost the hair and the beard too - but the prostate cancer survivor said he felt “great,” to be in a room full of people rooting for cancer survivors.
“That’s why I’m doing it,” he said with a grin, while Brown worked her magic.
The firemen were joined by Roscoe Coffee Shop owner Vern Francisco and the Chesneys’ son, Evan, in going bald.
The 14-year-old was quiet while another firemen buzzed away. But a grin covered his face when Steve found the teen his hat and plunked it on his head… only to realize it was now too big.
“Kids undergo painful treatments in their battle with cancer, and with the treatments, they lose their hair," Evan said later. “Collecting donations and having my head shaved was a painless way for me to help them.”
It’s a story the Chesney family knows all too well. Their youngest, Brad, survived a lepto-menengial tumor as a toddler. Today he’s an 11-year-old with hair past his shoulders, hair he’s growing out to donate to Locks of Love, another non-profit which uses donated hair to fashion wigs for children who have undergone cancer treatments.
There were few in the room cancer hadn’t touched.
Roscoe’s First Assistant Chief Keith Travers, a corrections officer at the federal prison in Otisville, went to his union to look for donations on his head for the cause. He wanted every penny he could find to help for the kids, but also to honor Roscoe’s Fireman of the Year for 2008, cancer survivor Tim Darbee.
When doctors found a cancerous tumor in Darbee’s neck, he could have stayed home, but he threw himself even harder into his work for the fire department.
While the guys reworked their schedules to drive him to treatments, cut his firewood and keep him going, Darbee still showed up at the firehouse to drill and train.
“He was still active as anything,” Travers said. “There were nights he didn’t look like he wanted to be here, but he was here.
“This is kind of in honor of him,” Travers said of his shaved head. “And any kind of cancer research, but especially for the kids.”
“Anything for the kids,” was a common refrain in the firehouse. Even the men who hemmed and hawwed about losing the beard, the guys who insisted Browne the professional take care of their hair made no bones about why they were there.
“Roscoe has some of the most caring and giving people I have ever met within their fire department,” Lisa Chesney said. “I knew they would give 150 percent for this cause.”
They did to the tune of $2,600, and donations are still being accepted at http://www. stbaldricks.org/events/event_info.php?EventKey=2009-2173.
The Roscoe organization is planning to go annual, which means another St. Baldrick’s is tentatively scheduled for next spring.
The county’s next St. Baldrick’s will be held on Saturday, March 28, at 11 a.m. at the Liberty Firehouse.