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At St. Baldrick's Festival, Everyone's Family

In memory of their fallen friends, organizers of the St. Baldrick's Festival work to raise $100,000 annually for cancer-stricken children. The colossal party they throw is just a bonus.

For Collingswood firefighter Kevin Ehret, the seventh annual is more than just one of the best parties of the year. It's an annual reminder of the fraternal bonds shared by anyone who's ever donned a hard hat and fireproof coat.

One of the dearest to Ehret’s heart was his friend and fellow firefighter, Andy Staszewski. Cancer took Andy when he was only 23.

The year he was diagnosed, his brothers at the fire station surprised him one night by shaving their heads in a show of solidarity.

“We knew what he was going through, and we didn’t want him to go through that alone,” said Ehret. “He was never a real emotional guy, but you could tell he was overwhelmed.”

Maybe it was because Andy was hired right out of high school and had planned to make a career out of firefighting. Maybe it was because he got such a raw deal at such a young age. Whatever the reason, his brothers-in-arms were inspired to keep fighting for Andy long after his body lost the battle.

When Ehret’s father died from cancer that same year, the firehouse shared his pain. For a man whose family traces its lineage through public service careers, it was a powerful source of strength.

“There’s no other people like the guys in the fire service,” Ehret said. “If something happens to one of us, everybody’s involved.”

Every year that family gets a little bit bigger for one festive afternoon. The Collingswood community pays tribute to its Andys at $10 a head, driving towards a $100,000 annual goal. Every cent is donated to the St. Baldrick's Foundation of Moravia, CA, which funds research for childhood cancers.

From 11 AM to 4 PM Sunday, March 18, at the , guests can enjoy one-dollar "adult-style" drinks, live music, food and the signature head shavings of the afternoon. Children 11 and younger are admitted free.

Come for the camaraderie and a chance to win one of several high-end door prizes, including a big-screen TV, Samsung Galaxy tablet, gift baskets and more.

Can’t make it Sunday? You can still make a difference: give at Collingswood Firefighters for a Kids' Cure or contact Ehret to donate a door prize.

Salvatore Luca March 10, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Not to take away from the Scottish Rite Theatre, the event should be held at a larger auditorium. There was no seating for the senoirs who came out to donate. All the tables were taken by set families. Being a first time attendee, I wasn't sure if the tables were reserved by cancer stricken families or paid for in advance for the occasion. My wife and I had to leave for lack of seating and could not enjoy the festivities. All in all, its a donation, so you shouldn't expect much more. Its just a shame the senoirs have to stand, or even eat while standing. Thank you.
Linda Fanelli March 10, 2013 at 11:33 PM
That's wonderful you came out to support this cause! Yes it is a little busy with families and kids running all around but next time if you see an open seat just ask if it is open! It was an extremely friendly event and you and your guests would have been welcome at any table I'm sure. Hope to see you next year!!

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