(L to R): Phinneas Edwards got his head shaven alongside his dad, Brent, to raise awareness for pediatric cancer research. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Shortly after Deputy Mayor Matthew Hunter adjourned Tuesday night’s (03-08-16) assembly meeting, an exuberant crowd came forward with an item not on the agenda, but critical just the same.

On March 18th, Sitka will host its 10th annual St. Baldrick’s Day, a nationwide event that invites participants to shave their heads and, in the process, raise money for pediatric cancer research. In the past two years, Sitka has raised over $80,000. Nationally, the event raises tens of millions.


Dr. Dave Vastola, on the microphone, talks about the prevalence of childhood cancer. “[In the duration of this Assembly meeting], an estimated 20 children were diagnosed with cancer.” (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

To demonstrate how it’s done, cancer survivor 6-year-old Phinneas Edwards got a buzz cut in the middle of the Assembly floor. Pediatrician Dr. Dave Vastola looked on.


Vastola: I’m not going to ask you to speak but one word. Phinny, are you glad your blump is gone?

Phinny: Yeah!

Phinnea’s “blump” was a tumor, discovered inside his spinal cord three years ago.

Vastola, who organizes the St. Baldrick’s Day fundraiser, said said that every three minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer. “So, in the time of this Assembly meeting, that’s 20 children diagnosed with cancer. It’s 175,000 cases a year,” Vastola said. “I think everybody in this room knows an adult who had cancer – whose life was touched by cancer. Maybe not so many people have known a child.

Phinneas was joined in the haircut by his dad, Brent. Sporting freshly shaven heads and big smiles, they talked about Phinneas’s recovery after the tumor was surgically removed in Seattle.

Brent: This guy here, he had to re-learn how to walk twice. From nothing. He couldn’t feel his feet. Now, he’s doing great, running around, feeling strong. He’s got a cool scar to show for it. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell that anything ever happened to this guy. What do you have to say buddy?

Phinneas: It was kind of scary going to children’s hospital.

Brent: How do you feel now buddy?

Phinneas: Good.

Brent: Good. We want other kids to have the chances that he’s had. His treatment started somewhere. And so the funding that this was raising will hopefully start another treatment for a kid to wind up where this guy’s at now.

St. Baldrick’s head shave event will take place on March 18th at 6 p.m. at the Elks Lodge. Visit here to register. 

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