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10-year-old girl will shave head at St. Baldrick’s in Roseville

She’s going bald to support her friend with cancer
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Best friends Sadie Leber and Gaby Dickey are usually on the same wavelength.

They giggle at the same jokes and enjoy similar hobbies, such as playing with Legos or their American Girl dolls. They also like “Harry Potter.”

The 10-year-old girls have been close friends since meeting as toddlers at a mutual friend’s birthday party.

“They’re both wild and crazy girls,” said Sadie’s mom, Candace Leber.

Their friendship is so special that Gaby will shave off her long, brown hair in honor of Sadie during the 10th annual St. Baldrick’s Celebration at Westfield Galleria in Roseville on Saturday. Sadie, who is undergoing cancer treatment, will perform the first shave.

The volunteer-driven St. Baldrick’s Foundation funds more research grants for childhood cancer than any organization except the U.S. government, according to a news release.

The Roseville-based Keaton Raphael Memorial is hosting the local St. Baldrick’s event. This nonprofit organization supports families and raises funds to find a cure for childhood cancer. More than 6,000 people have shaved their heads since the first celebration in 2003.

“There’s such a shortage of research funding for childhood cancer, and it’s become even more so in the last few years,” said founder Robyn Raphael. “It’s extremely important we don’t forget the ultimate goal is to find a cure, so St. Baldrick’s remains very important. It invites the community to do something very personal to work toward raising awareness of childhood cancer.”

Raphael’s son, Keaton, died from neuroblastoma in 1998 at 5 years old. This is an aggressive cancer of the nervous system.

Sadie has the same form of cancer at Keaton, and her best friend is eager to do something about that.

“I’m very excited because I’m raising donations for a cure for cancer,” Gaby said.

She says she’s not nervous about going bald. She’s more worried about all the thank you cards she’ll have to write. She’s already raised about $4,000 — the most of the 17 members on her team — as of press time.

“My first goal was $500 and now it’s $4,000,” Gaby said.

She and her best friend live in the same neighborhood and had attended school together since kindergarten, until Gaby transferred to Quail Glen Elementary School. Sadie goes to Heritage Oak Elementary school.

Sadie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 6 on Christmas Day 2007. She had a tumor in her abdomen and cancer in her bone marrow. She went through 13 months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, stem-cell transplant and surgery.

She relapsed 10 months later, then went into remission but has relapsed again. She’s lost her hair three times.

Neuroblastoma is the third most-common type of childhood cancer, but is still rare with about 650 cases a year. Because of its rarity, research devoted to this cancer is insufficient, said Candace Leber.

“We definitely need new treatment,” she said. “They’re using the same medicines developed 30 years ago. There’s just nothing new.”

Candace Leber volunteered at last year’s St. Baldrick’s event, sweeping hair off the ground. About 250 people shaved their heads, Raphael said.

“It’s an extremely brave thing she’s doing for a 10-year-old girl to give up her hair,” Candace Leber said. “I don’t know if I could do it. We’re honored. Their family has been there for us throughout this whole thing.”

Gaby’s mom, Kathy Dickey, said there’s so little people can do when it comes to cancer that her family wants to do anything they can to help.

“I’m really proud of Gaby for offering to do this,” Kathy Dickey said. “When she told me, I paused and thought, would I be able to do this at 10 years old? No, I wouldn’t. But she’s so determined.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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St. Baldrick’s Celebration
When:
Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 10
Where: Center Court, Westfield Galleria, 1173 Galleria Blvd in Roseville
Info: To volunteer or donate, visit www.childcancer.org