West Allis - Eight-year-old Braeden Rausch has mounted a two-pronged attack on childhood cancer, and it's all tied to his long flowing locks of hair.
When he has his head shaved as part of the annual St. Baldrick's Day fundraiser Monday, the West Allis youth will not only be financially aiding cancer research but will also be providing the material used for wigs for children stricken with cancer or other diseases that result in hair loss.
As of Tuesday, Braeden had raised $1,211 in pledged donations for St. Baldrick's, the largest nongovernmental supporter of childhood cancer research. This year's West Allis-sponsored event will be held at Hoover Elementary School, where Braeden is a student. He will be joined by West Allis Mayor Dan Devine, Alderman Michael May and others who will go bald for the cause.
But, unlike most participants, Braeden's distinctively curly locks won't end up in the dustpan. Instead, they'll go to the organization Locks of Love, which makes wigs for needy children whose hair loss isn't be choice.
That has been his intent all along.
Braeden has been growing his hair for Locks of Love for more than two years. Locks of Love needs bunches of hair 10 inches long, and his brown curly tresses are long enough - now well past his shoulders.
While it wasn't always clear that he would shed those locks at St. Baldrick's, the opportunity doubled his ability to strike at cancer.
"I sorta felt like doing it to help kids with cancer," the youngster said simply this week.
His father, Darren Rausch, director of the Greenfield Health Department, expressed pride in his son's effort, which fits his personality.
"He has a gentle soul and likes to help out," Rausch said.
One might expect an 8-year-old boy to be teased for having curly, long locks, but that has hardly happened at all, his father said. On the few occasions there was some teasing, Braeden hasn't gotten upset, Rausch added.
"He knows what he's doing is for a good cause," he said.
Like son, like father
Dad himself will on the Hoover stage with his son getting his head shaved next week.
"I thought it was the least I could do to shave my head in solidarity with Braeden," Rausch said, though noting, "I'm more or less bald now."
Braeden is also accepting his temporarily bald fate, after years of growing his hair out.
"I'm ready for it to be off," said Braeden, adding that he is looking forward to Monday's St. Baldrick's Day event.
He won't be alone. In addition to the local fundraising volunteers, people across the country have gone bald for the cause.
So far this year, 41,872 boys and men and 7,124 girls and women have shed their hair at the 1,246 St. Baldrick's events all over the country. They have raised $22.3 million for childhood cancer research. Last year's 12-month total was $33.5 million.
AT A GLANCE
How to help out:
Donate to Braeden's St. Baldrick's effort atstbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/625150/2013 or call (888) 899-2253.
Volunteer to go bald for a cause. Call the West Allis mayor's office, (414) 302-8290, for more information
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