By Anya Tikka
ELDRED For the sixth year, Lou Monteleone, who owns The Corner coffee shop in Eldred, is hosting a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event that raises funds for childhood cancer research, and for the third time it includes his own, unique additions to it that have now spread to 30 other states: Human Line of Hope and Conga Against Cancer.
We caught Lou for an interview in the middle of preparations for the September 9 fundraiser.
Q. Can you clarify what the St. Baldrick’s, Human Line of Hope and Conga against Cancer are, and how are they connected?
A. The St. Baldrick’s fundraiser started 11 years ago by three guys talking in a bar and deciding to try to raise $1,000 by shaving their head to support childhood cancer sufferers who often lose their hair. They ended up raising $100,000.
The name St. Baldrick’s came about because it was near St. Patrick’s Day.
Human Line of Hope is an idea I had a few years ago. I thought not everybody can cut their hair, but they’d still like to help. I came up with the idea of holding a name of a child who has cancer in a line of participants. Each participant holds up one letter of a name of a child or inspiring words such as “hope” or “cure,” donating $10 per letter.
I figured if people have fun, they are more apt to help. Everybody does conga, people dance, so I started Conga against Cancer as well.
Q. How did you get involved in this?
A. I’ve had quite a few people close to me dying suddenly. It was painful. I want to help. Bringing people together, I think it makes a better world. I’m not trying to be any kind of prophet or anything… I’m just doing my little bit for the kids.
Q. Why did you choose St. Baldrick’s Foundation?
A. I support a number of charities but became involved in this because I was emceeing a St. Baldrick’s event in Liberty, and saw the kids who had their hair shaved. It was very emotional, although I don’t have any kids of my own who suffer from cancer. That’s where it started. St. Baldrick’s is Number One for me.
The other reason is that they have very low cost of administration, two percent. For some charities, it’s 80 percent.
Q. Explain more about the Human Line of Hope and what you hope to accomplish with it.
A. We had two names in the Line of Hope two terminal cancer cases, one a kid named Wilson, and one a middle-aged man, Thomas, and now they’re cancer-free.
I held the name of a friend of mine who was diagnosed with cancer, and now he’s in remission.
My dad has stage 4 liver cancer. He wasn’t supposed to make it past Christmas, but he’s still going. You start to reflect on why is he still going.
I thought what it must mean to a child with cancer to see all these people holding their name up in a line.
Q. Your event here in Eldred has raised about $15,000 per year. Tell us more about your new developments.
A. I saw how it was here, and I got a great feeling doing it. We’ve had 150 people here. It stops people “what are they doing?” It raises awareness.
I wanted to take it a step further. I don’t know people in Hawaii, and I don’t have money for huge ads. That’s why I decided to use social media, Facebook, to find the right people.… One by one it started falling into place. This year, 30 states all across the country are going to stand in line same time as us on Sept. 9 from 10 a.m.1 p.m.
I also got in touch with St. Baldrick’s Foundation and asked them what they would tell about their cause in 50 words. They came back, and we tried to get someone from all 50 states to hold up one word, to take a picture of it, and email it to me, and I will then make a video and when it plays, you see the whole message. We didn’t get 50 states, so some have two words.
Q. How many people are involved in the Human Line of Hope?
A. I’m not sure. Some have 10, some have 50 people in line. I had 150 here. Some lines are going to be in people’s backyards, some in public places. Some states have two events: New York has Eldred and Buffalo. Texas and Wisconsin also have two.
Q. What keeps you going?
A. It’s a lot of work. But the children are fighting, battling each single day. They didn’t ask for this. People don’t have money. I do a lot with kids. Some of the kids have never had pictures with Santa because it costs money, I do it all for them for free. Kids are human beings, they didn’t do anything to deserve this. I have a passion for this.
Forget your money make a difference with yourself. Take your family away from TV and games. Think what it means to the kids when they see people standing in a line holding their name. This is how we make a better world.
People say, “You think too big.” I’m proud of being like this. I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I have no regrets.