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Big Sky Fire Department raises hope and funds for childhood cancer

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By Renae Counter, Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY – The St. Baldrick’s event at the Big Sky Fire Station left more hair on the floor than atop heads, but it wasn’t without a good cause.

This is the fourth year the Big Sky Fire Department has hosted a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s—an organization that raises money for kids with childhood cancer.

“This is a great fundraiser because it directly benefits children suffering from childhood cancer,” Chief Bill Farhat said. “The firefighters enjoy doing it, and it’s fun for the kids that get to come up to the fire station.”

Each year, the BSFD St. Baldrick event honors children from around the area. This year the department chose to honor Bozeman resident Caden Shauger, as well as campers from Eagle Mount’s Big Sky Kids Camp. Caden, son of Bozeman Fire Chief Jason Shauger and his wife Pam, was diagnosed with High Risk Neuroblastoma at age 3. From Big Sky Kids Camp, 18 campers and six counselors came for the event.

“The support is the most powerful part of this event,” said Lisa Batzler, director at Eagle Mount. “There is a sense of family from the Big Sky Fire Department for doing this; I can’t thank them and St. Baldricks enough.”

Jaci Clark of Montana Haven Salon was the official event barber. Among the many male participants who raised money to go bald, a few tough women also stepped up to support the cause.

“I was sick when I was 18, so I know what it’s like,” said Megan Custer, a volunteer from Big Sky Kids Camp who raised $3,000 from the kids this year. “I shaved my head because it’s one way I can give back…It’s my second time shaving my head and I’ll do it again.”

After hearing Caden’s story, Darlene Lauer decided to go bald along with her husband, Kevin Lauer, assistant Chief at Gallatin Gateway Rural Fire Department.

“I went door-to-door asking for donations,” Darlene said. “By the time I got to the end of the first street I couldn’t tell the story without crying. A few days ago, my two grandkids left after visiting, and I thought about them and how thankful I am they are healthy. I just wanted to help these kids out.”

Chief Farhat’s 12-year old daughter Amy also participated by allowing her long, brown hair to be shaved off. “She wanted to be a part of it and help out,” the fire chief said.

Along with head shaving, the fire department served a pancake breakfast and gave children rides on the fire trucks.

In total, 30 participants had their heads shaved, raising $12,095. Donations can still be made by searching for the Big Sky Fire Departments event page at stbaldricks.org.

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