Roger Tannen has been getting his head shaved for 17 years now.

The retired Bernalillo County firefighter isn’t doing it for easy maintenance, though. It started out to show solidarity for his young nephew who had been diagnosed with leukemia. He said there was nothing he could do physically to help from out of state, but when he found St. Baldrick’s, he decided to participate in the annual fundraiser for childhood cancer research.

Now, on top of shaving his head, Sunday was his second year serving as volunteer event coordinator at the Rio Rancho Events Center.

“The foundation is volunteer-driven and donation based,” Tannen said. “All of the funds go to childhood cancer research.”

The event happens every year around St. Patrick’s Day, he said, and on Sunday, more than 45 volunteers had signed up to have their heads shaved with more registering on site. “They basically get pledges for their hair,” Tannen explained, saying they try to get family, friends, coworkers and even strangers “to donate on their scalp.”

The goal this year is $60,000, and midway through the event Sunday about half of that had been raised, he said. Donations to the campaign can be made through the rest of the year.

St. Baldrick’s, he said, focuses on research for childhood cancer because it’s not well treated and understood. “In the past, they uses adult treatment methods, which don’t always work on kids,” he said. “More research is needed for child-specific cancer.”

Also on hand during Sunday’s event to show support was Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull. Though he didn’t shave his head, he did encourage the crowd to donate even if they weren’t facing the shears. “I don’t think there’s a greater cause that we can focus on in the city of Rio Rancho than erasing childhood cancer … Wouldn’t it be amazing if this was the last time we had to hold this event? I mean, that would be amazing.”

Hull also said he’s seen the effect of childhood cancer in the community. “I see the parents that struggle with this, I see the families that struggle with this, I see what it does in the community,” he said. “But then I also see groups like this come out and support an event like this and it just re-energizes and affirms what it means to the community we live in.”

The event also featured a variety of vendors, a classic car show, displays of emergency vehicles from various department, a raffle, an auction and Irish-themed performances.

Baldricks dancing