It seemed as if the walls could barely contain the joyful energy that developed within Washougal High School Sunday afternoon. And right at the center of it all was 9-year-old Sammy Mederos.
Her lightly freckled face and bright eyes were beaming as she bounced from person to person, greeting each one with smiles, hugs and hellos, only standing still long enough to pose for a photo — or two or three. Her enthusiasm was contagious; she looked about ready to jump right out of her bright red Converse tennis shoes.
All of this excitement was leading up to the local fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which in 2012 funded more than $25 million in childhood cancer research grants worldwide.
Mederos, a cancer survivor, led the parade of 27 people who signed up to have their heads shaved to raise money for the cause.
“I’m so excited,” Mederos said prior to having her long, curly hair reduced to a buzz cut. “I didn’t expect that there would be this many people here.”
Among the crowd was Mary LaFrance, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and endured 18 months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation treatments, in addition to a double mastectomy.
Friend Kay Ritter stepped up to shave LaFrance’s head for the event. It brought back memories for the two women. Ritter shaved LaFrance’s head as she began to lose her hair while undergoing chemotherapy treatments eight years ago.
“We were locked in my bathroom,” Ritter recalled. “We laughed and we cried.”
This time around, the scene was much different. More than 100 people looked on as LaFrance lost her hair, this time for a good cause.
“I feel about 50 pounds lighter,” joked the freshly shorn LaFrance, with a big smile on her face. “It’s totally amazing to be able to be here and see Sammy be the kind of kid she is, with such a compassionate heart.”
Washougal Mayor Sean Guard also agreed to say goodbye to his hair, as well as his beard after a donor contributed $500. He said he was excited to be a part of it.
“People ask me if I like being mayor. Some days the answer is no. But this stuff, this is pretty cool,” he said. Guard later read a proclamation designating June 9 “Sammy Mederos Day.”
Mederos, now a third-grader at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School in Washougal, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was in kindergarten. She underwent rigorous treatment and is cancer free. Now, she hopes her efforts will help find a cure.
“I want to raise money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation so that more research can be done to cure childhood cancer, so that all children who are diagnosed with cancer can survive.”
According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, one in five children who are diagnosed with cancer in the United States and Canada will not survive. Some good news, however, is that today thanks for funded research 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer live. In the 1950s, only 3 percent survived.
Michele Mederos, Sammy’s mom, said on Monday that the local effort had raised $8,400 so far, and donations are still being accepted at www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/651086/2013.
She said the family looks forward to planning and even bigger St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Washougal next year.
“We live in Washougal; we love this community,” Michele Mederos said to the crowd on Sunday. “This community gets together in a number of ways, whether it is something to celebrate or a hardship.”