The first time Derek Larson shaved his head, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Five years later, the 11-year-old is a pro.
Derek was more than ready to sacrifice his crop of bright green hair Monday in the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser hosted by midtown’s de Vere’s Irish Pub. St. Baldrick’s Foundation, whose name is a play on St. Patrick’s Day, raises money every March to fund childhood cancer research. According to the organization’s website, volunteers have raised more than $200 million since 2005.
The L Street pub hosted the block party, complete with 10 green-draped chairs waiting for heads to be shaved, including Derek’s. The crowd cheered as Supercuts hairdressers slid electric razors under hairlines. Most of the crowd appeared to be there to watch, but plenty of men and some women walked across the stage to get their hair sheared.
Derek began fundraising for St. Baldrick’s after his father, Ted Larson, was diagnosed with bladder cancer five years ago. After Ted passed away three years ago, Derek continued fundraising in his memory.
“I do it to honor him,” Derek said. “He was funny. He knew like everyone around.”
This year, Larson joined the de Vere’s fundraising team “The Bald Crusaders,” who raised $194,090 as of 5:30 p.m. Monday. Derek’s total at that time was $10,408, surpassing his $8,500 goal.
“He’s very driven,” said Derek’s mother, Cindy Larson. “Every day he comes in and he’s like, ‘How much money do I have?’ ”
Henry de Vere White, who co-owns de Vere’s with his brother, Simon, is Larson’s “bald coach.”
The brothers are bald themselves, so they act as coaches for people “braving the shave,” de Vere White said.
He said the two joined the fight against cancer as a way to give back to their father. The de Vere’s team competes against a team headed by their good friend Chef Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L.
“(Mulvaney) makes fun of us for being follicly challenged,” de Vere White said. “So we go to war for two months to see who can raise the most ... We do it for the kids. For those two months, it’s serious.”
Restaurateurs and restaurant staff across Sacramento participate in the event, de Vere White said, including bartenders from midtown hotspots LowBrau, The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, Bottle & Barlow, and Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.
De Vere White serves as a bald coach for Taro Arai, the chef at Mikuni Sushi, as well. Arai is the leading individual fundraiser for The Bald Crusaders with $17,355 as of 5:30 p.m. Monday.
The de Vere Whites originally held the event at the UC Davis Cancer Center, but Henry pointed out that the St. Baldrick’s head-shaving fundraiser began at a pub and brought it back, he said.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation began with 19 shaved heads in a Manhattan pub in 2000, which raised $104,000 for childhood cancer research. Over the past 16 years, the organization bloomed into a nationwide fundraising juggernaut that put $27.2 million into research in 2014.
In 2015, research funded by St. Baldrick’s led to the approval of a new drug for a childhood glandular cancer by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
“The key is that everybody has been affected by cancer,” de Vere White said. “Cancer is very nondiscriminating and it needs to be eradicated and the only way to do that is to raise money for research.”
Donations will be accepted through Friday at the Bald Crusaders page.
“How much would you shave to save a life?” de Vere White asked. “Easy for a bald guy to say, but I used to have long hair.”