MERIDEN — For 14 years, Maggie Bender, now a retired firefighter, has shaved her head for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Normally, city firefighters host an event at the Dawg House Bar and Grill to raise money for St. Baldrick’s but due to COVID-19, they haven’t been able to hold the event.
Bender, however, has continued to shave her head to help children fighting cancer.
“Last year we planned an event, obviously it didn’t happen, so I shaved my head anyway in my driveway because my cousin can do that,” Bender said. “He came over, shaved my head and whatever money we raised still goes to St. Baldrick’s.”
This year, firefighters may hold an in person event in the fall, but Bender decided to shave her head on Sunday, with her family and friends there lending support. She also plans to shave her head again in the fall.
“My hair was way too long for me so I just figured it would be just like getting a regular haircut and St. Baldrick’s would make some money off of it,” Bender said. “... I shave it like once a year and then it grows out and we go from there, but I just figured, ‘What the hell,’ … It goes to children’s cancer research and what better place to put my money where my mouth is.”
St. Baldrick’s is a not-for-profit that raises money to help and find cures for children with cancer. Before the pandemic, local organizations would hold fundraisers around St. Patrick’s Day, asking supporters to pledge money in return for
members shaving their heads.
For the past couple of years, Bender has raised over $3,000 for St. Baldrick’s. This year, she had raised $3,564 so far.
“People would just donate because they know that she does it,” said Christine Webster, Bender’s sister. “Who doesn’t want to help kid’s cancer?”
Bender said the typical in-person event hosted by city firefighters is a “family affair.”
“Tons of firefighters from surrounding towns … We get guys from Middletown, New Haven, Wallingford,” Bender said. “They raise money through their department … We put a bunch of people in (the Dawg House) to shave our heads and a drum band comes in from New Haven. We make quite an event out of it and it’s a good time to go sit, have something to eat and drink and watch everyone else get shaved.”
Ellie Bender, Maggie Bender’s mother, said that some of Maggie Bender’s old classmates continue to donate every year.
“She’s had a couple of people who were in her classes way back when and they’ve been donating money to this ever since then,” Ellie Bender said. “She contacted them and they still wanted to do it.”
But Ellie Bender said that for Maggie Bender, helping others is what matters.
“If Maggie can help anybody, she does it,” Ellie Bender said.