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A close shave: Major loses his hair to show support for young cancer patient.

In a public show of support for a 6-year-old cancer victim, a Reservist from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., shed his hair while shedding light on a nationwide organization dedicated to raising money for cancer research.

During St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Atlanta, Maj. David Rodberg, an executive officer with the 22nd Air Force Crisis Action Team, had his head shaven on a stage by his wife, Lorna, at Underground Atlanta.

Major Rodberg sacrificed his hair on behalf of Ciara Fleming, daughter of friends Donal and Karen Fleming, and to support the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

At 23 months of age, Ciara was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. After aggressive treatment, she is celebrating more than three years of remission.

"She's an amazing little girl and is doing really well," thanks to help from St. Baldrick's, Major Rodberg said.

According to the foundation's Web site, St. Baldrick's is a "whimsical twist" on St. Patrick's Day, when volunteers agree to shave their heads bald for children's cancer research. The organization began in 1999 as the brainchild of a group of businessmen in New York City who decided to switch the focus of their annual St. Patrick's Day celebration from partying at their favorite pub to helping young children diagnosed with cancer.

Because cancer treatments often cause victims' hair to fall out, the businessmen decided to recruit volunteers to have their heads shaved in public in return for pledges of financial support. The first event was held in 2000. In 2005, the founders formed an independent, nonprofit organization. In its first five years, the group raised nearly $7 million.

The foundation's biggest benefactor is the Children's Oncology Group. Last year, Mr. Fleming said, "more than 64 percent of the money raised (by St. Baldrick's) went directly to research, with an additional 25 percent held back for future grants."

According to the St. Baldrick's Foundation, the Children's Oncology Group comprises more than 2,000 childhood cancer experts working at 230 leading childhood cancer institutions throughout the world. This cooperative research group leads the world in finding new treatments. Its members treat more than 90 percent of all children with cancer in North America.

The premise of St. Baldrick's fund-raising effort is simple: Potential "shavees" sign up on the foundation's Web site ( to "lose" their hair voluntarily, through public shaving events. Volunteers line up people who are willing to pledge donations to the organization in their name. Barbers as well as shavees can be sponsored.

Major Rodberg is a flight nurse evaluator with the 94th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. His military job mirrors what he does in civilian life as a trauma flight nurse.

The major began his Air Force career in 1981 as a veterinary technician, working with parade horses at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. He later became an environmental health technician, leaving active duty in 1987 and joining the Air National Guard.

Major Rodberg earned a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1989 from the University of Massachusetts. He joined the Reserve as a flight nurse at Westover ARB, Mass., and became a member of the 94th AES in 1998.

St. Baldrick's is near and dear to his heart not only because of his friendship with the Flemings, but also because he has dedicated his life to saving lives.

"My sister was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease at age 19, and she just celebrated her 50th birthday," the major said. "Knowing what she went through made me want to get involved more.

"When you deal with children, it touches your heart. As adults, we've had a life, we've lived, and they haven't. I want to help give them a chance, because I've had a great life so far."

(Sergeant Wilt is assigned to the 622nd Reserve Support Group public affairs office at Dobbins ARB.)

Reporter joins in head-shaving festivities

During the course of their work, reporters get to meet many people and are often moved by individuals and events to do something more than just write about them. Such was the case with a public affairs specialist who was assigned to interview a Reservist who agreed to publicly have his head shaved to benefit child cancer victims.

While covering the story during St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Atlanta, Master Sgt. Ellen Hatfield Wilt of the 622nd Reserve Support Group at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., decided to also get involved with the cause by having her head shaved.

"I couldn't help but be inspired," Sergeant Wilt said. "It was with no hesitation whatsoever that I sat on the stool, donned the cape and let Major Rodberg shave me. I was the only woman that day, and the final 'shavee.'"

People who would like to show their solidarity with young cancer victims by volunteering to shave their heads, as well as those interested in donating money to help fund cancer research, can get more information on the Web at
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Author:Wilt, Ellen Hatfield
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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