Highland couple organizes St. Baldrick's event, raising more than $100K for childhood cancer research

Christie and David Zumm have organized a St. Baldrick's event to help fund pediatric cancer research in Highland for six years.

Christie Zumm of Highland and her husband, Dave, have two healthy children. And they know how fortunate they are. When Christie worked at a local day care, a young boy there died from pontine glioma, a pediatric brain tumor. That experience enlisted the Zumms in the fight against childhood cancer.

That prompted Dave Zumm and his friend, Aaron Jadernak, to participate in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s annual fundraising event and shave their heads to help raise money for the charity, which funds childhood cancer research. “All the events were in bars where children weren’t allowed,” said Christie. “So we decided to host our own family-friendly event.”

That was six years ago, and they’ve organized an event each year since. “We started with our first event in 2013 not knowing what to expect. It was a lot of friends who came and signed up and supported us,” said Zumm. “We set our goal small at $5,000. We had that before we even walked into the event that day. We raised just over $10,000 that year.” Since 2013, they’ve raised over $100,000 for St. Baldrick’s.

Organizing the fundraiser requires a lot of help. “It all starts with our core group going out and securing donations. Local stores are the ones who give. ‘Shop Local’ because those are the ones who support these types of events year after year,” said Zumm. “Wicker Park and North Township have been amazing.” After a couple of years, the event grew and needed a larger location. It’s now held at the Wicker Memorial Park Social Center.

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“It takes a lot of work before the day of the event, and we have some wonderful family and friends who get out there and get donations. That’s one of the highlights of our event. The other is head shaving,” said Zumm. “We get the posters for our event out early and get the word out.”

Even those who don’t sign up to shave their heads often get caught up in the moment and take the plunge when they realize that donations pour in on the spot. And it’s not limited to men. Several women give their locks to the cause.

The event has a good following, and the Zumms love to see repeat shavees come back year after year, but they’re equally as happy to welcome newbies who want support this cause so close to their hearts. “We have some who have been with us since day one, we have many who have been to many of our events. Friends bring friends with them because they had a great time the year before and that’s how our event has grown. We love seeing familiar faces year after year, and enjoy meeting new participants each year.”

Zumm offers statistics to show the need for her efforts: "Less than 4 percent of government funding goes to childhood cancer research. St. Baldrick's fills that gap by funding research," she said. "When we first started St. Baldrick's six years ago, a child was diagnosed with cancer every three minutes. That number is now every two minutes. And it's not just a cure that is needed, but better treatments. Children are treated with the same chemicals as adults. Many children have chronic health problems from the treatments."