CORNING | Samuel Mertus walked into the Radisson on Sunday with a glorious head of flowing blonde hair. He walked out with a head full of stubble after receiving his first “haircut” since last March.
Mertus, a sophomore and a member of the Corning Hawks track team, smiled as his head was shaved.
“It’s a lot easier to see and a lot lighter and more aerodynamic for track,” Mertus said later. “It also raises money for a great cause.”
That great cause was St. Baldrick’s Day, the annual fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which fights pediatric cancer.
Mertus, who hadn't had a haircut since St. Baldrick's Day 2013,  and than 60 other people collected donations prior to Sunday’s event, held at the Radisson Hotel Corning.
The donations were still being counted at presstime, but organizers expected to raise approximately $20,000. In the years prior, the Corning St. Baldrick’s event has raised $55,000 total.
This is the third year St. Baldrick’s Day was held at the Radisson. For the first three years, it was held at Bella Capelli Salon on Market Street.
“It’s grown and grown to the point we could not host it anymore,” Bella Capelli owner Angi Franceschelli said. “People would be calling us asking if we were holding the event again. It’s really spread through word of mouth.”
Sunday, Mertus was joined by 12 of his teammates, including Samuel Chauvin, a senior who has been involved with St. Baldrick’s for seven years.
“My brother did it, and it seemed like a good cause,” Chauvin said. “I liked his haircut so I decided to do it the next year.”
Chauvin was so dedicated he decided to make it his personal project, which is required for all sophomores in the Corning-Painted Post school district.
This is the sixth year the team has participated.
“Some of my teammates jumped at the opportunity,” Chauvin said. “Others, it took some peer pressure.”
While the vast majority of the people getting their heads shaved were men, at least one woman also stood up for childhood cancer.
Victoria Strobel, a freshman at Keuka College, decided to participate after seeing an ad.
“I love kids,” Strobel said. “I realized my hair was going to grow back, but some of theirs never would. In the scheme of things, my hair is insignificant compared to the fact that some of these kids will never get to experience all the things I have.”
Also participating were local businesses. Franceschelli said that more than $500 in gift certificates were donated from Market Street merchants.
The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts were also represented. They sold baked goods and lemonade, with the proceeds going to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. In the three years the Junior Girl Scouts have been involved, they’ve raised more than $1,000.
“It’s a great cause,” said Sara Togni, a member of the Calvin U. Smith Junior Girl Scouts. “We wanted to help other people.”