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One family is going bald for a good cause

Dad, son and daughter plan to shave their heads for St. Baldrick's celebration
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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In a few weeks, Jenni Sanders will stick out like a sore thumb in her family.

“I’m going to be the only one with hair in the house,” she says, smiling.

Her husband, Trevor, won’t have hair, nor will their 13-year-old son Ryder or 11-year-old daughter Scout.

That’s because three members of this Granite Bay family will once again participate in St. Baldrick’s, a nationwide event in which people shave their heads in solidarity with children battling cancer — and raise money for cancer research while doing it.

The volunteer-driven fundraiser is organized by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which claims to fund more pediatric cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government. Last year, the charity donated more than $14 million, primarily to the Children’s Oncology Group.

Trevor, 40, and Ryder have been growing out their hair for the big occassion. Scout’s blond hair falls to her shoulders. But none of them are nervous about their impending baldness, unlike mom.

“I am not that brave,” Jenni Sanders, 39, says.

Instead, she’s helping her family organize their 5th annual private St. Baldrick’s event, which will be held at Greenhills Elementary School. Last year, 50 people — mainly boys — participated, raising more than $30,000. The family currently has 20 people signed up, but expects to end up with between 30 and 40 courageous volunteers.

Greenhills Principal Peter Towne was eager to involve his school.

“I shaved for St. Baldrick’s about four years ago — and have stayed bald since,” Towne says. “Third grade teacher Eric Lee shaved his head the same year and he’s stayed bald since, as well.”

Mary Silva and hair stylists from Essentials Spa Salon in Granite Bay will once again be volunteer barbers for the event.

This will be Ryder’s seventh year shaving his head, which means he will be knighted to the “Knights of the Bald Table.” This Olympus Junior High School student — who wants to be a professional water polo player or golfer when he grows up — has one reason for shaving his head.

He wants to show his support for cancer patients. Plus, “the chicks dig it,” jokes his dad.

Worldwide, 160,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer each year and cancer remains the leading disease killer of children in the United States. Funds raised through St. Baldrick’s events help some of the top research institutions work toward finding a cure.

Since 2003, the Roseville-based Keaton Raphael Memorial has shaved more than 2,000 heads, raising more than $2 million. The nonprofit organization will host two large community events, one at the Westfield Galleria and one at de Vere’s Irish Pub in Sacramento.

Robyn and Kyle Raphael founded the organization 13 years ago after losing their 5-year-old son Keaton to neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer in 1998.

“St. Baldrick’s is a national event,” Trevor Sanders says. “But for us, the real tie-in is Robyn and her organization. They do so much for so many people.”

The organization provides emotional, educational and financial support to families dealing with childhood cancer, while increasing awareness and funding research toward a cure.

They’ve delivered more than 650 “hope chests” to parents of kids with cancer, which include informational packets, a journal, fleece blanket, toys for siblings, a check for $500 and more.

“I never really thought about the cost of cancer and how it can really change a family,” Trevor Sanders says. “It’s not just about finding a cure, but helping families cope and giving them someone to talk to. I’ve been amazed (by Robyn) every day. She truly is a hero.”

Some, including Robyn Raphael, consider the Sanders family heroes, too.

Raised in Roseville, Trevor Sanders graduated from Oakmont High School and grew up traveling the world with his mom, dad and sister, Olympic gold medal swimmer Summer Sanders. He returned home to raise his family.

Along the way, he opened up 23 Jamba Juice franchises (which he has since sold). He owns a Dos Coyotes restaurant in Sacramento and will soon open Jack’s Urban Eats on Douglas and Sierra College boulevards. With his business success, he felt a personal obligation to give back to the community.

He spent four years on the board of the Roseville Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Eureka Schools Foundation board. He met Robyn Raphael soon after she started her organization, when she hit him up for donations at a farmer’s market.

In 2003, Raphael shaved her head during a St. Baldrick’s event.

“I just thought if she could do it, I could do it,” Trevor Sanders says. “Hair is nothing. Who cares?”

This year, he’s shaving in honor of family friend and cancer patient Debbie Smith. He’s already raised more than $500. But Scout has surpassed her dad, raising $715 for her inaugural shave.

“(I want to) help kids with cancer,” she says. “If you had cancer, you’d want other people to help you, too.”

Trevor and Jenni Sanders say they’re proud of their children’s willingness to participate in St. Baldrick’s.

“We want our kids to understand that the social responsibilities of being in a community is giving back, it’s not just taking,” Trevor Sanders says. “I hope they understand that the world is a big place and they’re part of it.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

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St. Baldrick’s celebrations hosted by Keaton Raphael Memorial

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 12

Where: Westfield Galleria, 1151 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville

OR

When: 5-8 p.m. Monday, March 14

Where: de Vere’s Irish Pub, 1521 L St. in Sacramento

Info: To sign up to be a shavee, start a team or donate, e-mail events@childcancer.org or call (916) 784-6786. For more information about Keaton Raphael Memorial, visit www.childcancer.org.

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St. Baldrick’s Foundation

· Since 2000, more than 147,000 volunteers, including 12,000 women, have participated

· Since 2005 (first year as a foundation), has donated more than 250 grants, totaling $55 million

· In 2010, donated more than $14 million in research funding

· For more information about St. Baldrick’s Foundation, visit www.stbaldricks.org.