MERIDEN — The back room of the Dawg House Bar and Grill on Broad Street turned into an impromptu hair salon, but one wouldn’t call what they were doing careful coiffing.
A line of hirsute firefighters waited, knocking back some beers and goofing around with each other, while a couple of stylists wielded clippers. Quickly each firefighter dropped into the chair, a couple of rapid zips with the clippers, and on to the next one.
With each bald head, just a bit more money was raised to fight childhood cancer.
The Meriden Fire Department held a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization committed to defeating childhood cancer, Saturday afternoon. By early afternoon the department had raised over $15,000 with more expected to come in by the end of the event. People swung by to have their heads shaved, a show of solidarity with children who often lose their hair because of cancer treatments.
Chris Brandt, a Meriden firefighter and event organizer, said the department first started doing fundraising for St. Baldrick’s in 2008. The department works closely with their colleagues in the Meriden Police Department, Hunter’s Ambulance Service, and neighboring fire departments in North Haven, Berlin, and New Haven.
“I’m a humble guy, so I don’t really know why I do it. We are here to help others. People in public safety tend to want to help as much as they can,” Brandt said.
That feeling seemed to be common. Louise Jacques, the new owner of the Dawg House Bar and Grill, said doing events like this one is one of the reasons she bought the place a year ago.
“This has always been a place that did fundraisers. I promised the previous owners that I would keep doing them … Being behind a desk was never my thing, but this is,” Jacques said.
A trio of guys, who dubbed themselves the Middletown Eagles, waited for their shearing, a moment that seemed to have been a long time coming.
“We are going to leave here bald eagles,” said Chris Damon.
“You need a haircut anyway,” said Dan Messer.
“It’s my most expensive haircut of the year,” said Kevin Dulac.
Maggie Bender, a retired Meriden fire lieutenant, was this year’s top fundraiser bringing in about $2,500. She walked through the bar, selling tickets for a drawing. The lucky winner would get to help shave her head, something she does every year.
“My hair has never been this long,” she said of her already short hair.
Amidst the event’s good feeling and collegial family vibe, Bender allowed herself a moment of seriousness.
“I’m 60. I understand getting cancer. I don’t understand that,” she said, pointing to a baby held by their mother. It’s unfathomable to her that a child would have to deal with that kind of illness. That’s a common sentiment among the people attending on Saturday - the idea that children would be so afflicted made everyone want to pitch in and do their part.