MERRILLVILLE — Andrew Bisaga, 12, of St. John, lost his hair because he is fighting cancer. Bisaga was diagnosed with osteosarcoma cancer in November and is halfway through 18 chemotherapy treatments over an eight-month period.
On Sunday, Andrew watched fellow classmates and friends lose their hair, too. They were doing it to show support for him at the seventh annual St. Baldrick's Event at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation uses the proceeds to provide funds for pediatric cancer research grants.
"It just shows with what Andrew is going through there is ton of support," said Andrew's mother, Mary Bisaga. "People are willing to do something for him kind of highlights the fact that he has cancer and loses his hair but then we come here there are kids who have chosen to do it. They chose to do something to support Andrew. It brings this community together. It has brought this level of support that we never imagined."
Sam Ellis, 8, of St. John, decided to shave his head to support Andrew.
"He decided to do it because he was very moved by Andrew's story," said Sam's mother, Stacy Ellis.
Brian Ellis said his son "got very emotional."
"We are touched and proud that he wanted to do this," he said.
Claudia Fogus, of Merrillville, was with her entire family having their heads shaved to support her son, Michael, a two-time cancer survivor. While her husband and sons have had their heads shaved at the event for several years, this marked the first time Fogus was having her hair cut off.
"Being a cancer mom, it is just something that I felt like I had to do," she said. "It feels empowering. I feel like I'm finally able to let go of all of the pain and the diagnosis. It just keeps coming. Because it is not just cancer. It is everything after that. It's my big f you to cancer."
Texture Pointe Salon stylists volunteered their services at the event for the seventh consecutive year. Salon coordinator Christine Froglia said the stylists love doing it but it can be emotional for them, too.
"They love it because it is such a great event," she said.
Donna Criner, director of the NICK Foundation, said this year's turnout was great.
"Each year we get a little bigger," she said.
NICK Foundation Director of Services Nicole Yarrow said this year's goal was to raise $50,000. As of Saturday night they were over $40,000.
"I think we are going to reach it," she said.