Patrick Gray / KabikPhotoGroup.com
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 | 12:02 a.m.
It is heartbreaking and uplifting. The sadness arises because innocent young children are fighting a cruel and painful battle against cancer. It’s inspiring and heartening because hundreds of volunteers are willing to be shaved bald to raise funds to combat childhood cancer.
This past weekend marked the annual St. Baldrick’s Day when coast-to-coast men, women and children agree to have their heads shaved bald as others donate money for their self-less effort.
Nowhere was the gift giving more pronounced than here in Las Vegas. Entertainers turned out in force to join residents in support of the cause.
Olivia Newton-John and Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox were just two of the stars taking part. Gary led the effort at Hard Rock Hotel’s third-annual St. Baldrick’s fundraiser at Vinyl. NBC’s Season 7 “The Voice” winner Craig Wayne Boyd (who is opening for Rascal Flatts at the nearby Joint in the min-residency “Vegas Riot!” through Saturday), Five Finger Death Punch bassist Chris Kael and actor Adrian Zmed also were at Vinyl.
They raised more than $10,000, and Gary shaved the head of Hard Rock Hotel Entertainment Director Max McAndrew as performers Sin City Sinners, Elvis Monroe, Peter Love, Nieve Malandra and Smells Like Nirvana cheered.
Olivia led the effort shaving for the first time volunteers on the Brooklyn Bridge outside New York-New York. Carrot Top and the gorgeous girls of “Fantasy” joined cast members from Chippendales, Thunder From Down Under, “Jersey Boys,” “Rock of Ages “and” Absinthe.
But the day belonged to 4-year-old Elann Saula, who suffers from serious immune-system disorders. Elann was the subject of a deeply emotional story written by our Editor at Large John Katsilometes that detailed Elann’s struggles and treatments at a St. Baldrick’s-funded center. Elann shaved John’s head at New York-New York, then went to McMullan’s Irish Pub, where he shaved the head of another donor volunteer into a Mohawk.
I was one of the MCs at McMullan’s for their 16-hour fundraiser and was joined by singer Clint Holmes, “Starsky & Hutch” actor Antonio “Huggy Bear” Vargas and our city’s top TV news anchors. McMullan’s has been headquarters for the event for the past nine years, with 450 volunteers there this year to have their heads shaved.
The curvaceous cuties from “Sexxy” at Westgate Las Vegas led by their producer and choreographer Jennifer Romas encouraged donations into the large green hats from everybody.
Special recognition went to Dr. Jonathon Bernstein, Las Vegas pediatric oncologist from Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, who has received seven St. Baldrick’s grants. Dr. Bernstein was one of the volunteers to have his head shaved.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancer and give survivors long and healthy lives. Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has awarded more than $154 million to support life-saving research — more than $3 million here in our valley raised solely from the signature head-shaving events.
“We don’t have a huge formal dinner or silent auction as our fundraiser,” Brian McMullan said. “Rather, we have had hundreds of people from throughout Southern Nevada show up at our pub and sponsor their neighbors, friends and even strangers who are willing to have their heads shaved in solidarity with children who have lost their hair to cancer.”
He added: “The St. Baldrick’s Foundation was founded 16 years ago by three people who wanted to do more to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than just sit around and drink Guinness. One of them offered children cancer research as a fundraising recipient, and the participants had a goal of raising $1,000 each.
“After raising more than 10 times that amount, the annual event mushroomed and is now held in pubs, firehouses, restaurants, meeting halls, high school gyms and other venues in 18 countries and all 50 states, where more than 100,000 shaved heads attest to the volunteers’ fundraising efforts all over the world.”
Final figures are not yet available from the weekend, but I can report that when I left New York-New York, their total was headed toward $150,000, and at McMullan’s it was going past $350,000. Ri Ri Irish Pub at Mandalay Place (fourth year), Nine Fine Irishmen in New York-New York (seventh year) and Vinyl hosted other fundraisers.
Plans are already in discussion to celebrate next year’s 10th anniversary of the events started here by Brian and Lynn McMullan from their McMullan’s Irish Pub across from the Orleans. They lost their 2 year-old daughter Kyra to cancer when she died of a brain tumor. We’ll report the final gift-giving total this week.
Brian summed up: “We in Las Vegas hope to add to the more than $110 million the foundation awarded as grants to physicians and researchers across the globe. We will beat this horrific disease.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.