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Childhood Cancer Awareness

By Aramis Khosronejad

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson hosted its sewcond annual St. Baldrick’s event on March 15. During the event, students and faculty volunteered to shave their hair in solidarity with all those who are struggling with or have already gone into remission from a childhood cancer. 

In addition to those who “brave the shave” during this event, Port Jefferson high school helped fundraise by selling merchandise or simply accepting donations. All the money raised was donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. 

According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, there are more than 300,000 children diagnosed globally with cancer each year. In the U.S. alone, more children die due to cancer than any other disease. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an international organization dedicated to funding research for different kinds of childhood cancer to help accelerate and improve this type of research. 

The principal of the high school, John Ruggero, is passionate about hosting St. Baldrick’s events annually and exposing the high school to these kinds of events. 

“I want to get it so it occurs every year, so that lots of students and faculty and families, and people off the streets, come to donate,” he said.

Ruggero has been hosting St. Baldrick events for “over a decade,” he said. The principal is a firm believer that the most important education “takes place outside of the four walls” of a classroom. 

“When you have a philanthropic mindset, it really opens your mind out to what’s happening around us,” he said. Ruggero pointed out that these events can show students the most important lesson: If possible, doing things for others “should come first.”

“What happens is that kids who start to see that people rally behind these [events] become a little more confident in sharing their stories and want to get the word out,” Ruggero explained. He elaborated on how he wanted students to learn “the impact their actions have on others’ lives.”

The event was also supported and promoted by a 16-year-old student, Kyle Martin. When he was a child, Martin was fighting cancer and has been in remission for almost been eight years. 

Martin approached Ruggero and expressed his own desire for the school to host such an event, and the two worked together to bring the dream alive. Ruggero expressed his admiration for Martin’s mindset and ideas, explaining how because of his remission, Martin has been inspired to help other kids who are battling cancer. It’s safe to say that St. Baldrick’s will become a powerful tradition that Port Jefferson will adopt in future years. 

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Seven-year-old Jase Rossi from Lake Ronkonkoma has been battling cancer for the last 813 days, according to Ward Melville head coach Joseph Burger, whose team hosted Brentwood in a Childhood Cancer Awareness softball game Saturday morning.

Jase along with his parents made their way to the field through an arch of balloons and a canopy of raised bats to take the field.  

Over the last two plus years, Jase has had to endure countless blood platelet transfusions, weekly chemo and steroid treatments, multiple trips to the ER and extended hospital stays yet stood strong and threw out the first pitch to Ward Melville’s Maddie Kiely.  

All the girls wore yellow jerseys commemorating the event that help raise over $3,795 in online donations the money will go to the Friends of Karen an organization that helps families with children stricken with life threatening illnesses. 

A gift was presented to Jase a Nintendo switch video game console just before both teams took the field where the Patriots put on a perfect 12-0 shutout performance. Ward Melville sophomore Victoria Killigrew threw her first career no-hitter in the victory.