BOLINGBROOK — About 2,000 people gathered in solidarity for a St. Baldrick's Bolingbrook event Saturday, raising awareness and about $170,000 to fund childhood cancer research.
Organized by Bolingbrook Police Department Sgt. John Sullivan and the St. Baldrick's Bolingbrook Chapter, the Bolingbrook Golf Club hosted the eighth annual "Bolingbrook 4 Kids."
The Bolingbrook event is the second highest grossing Baldrick's fundraiser in Illinois (behind Chicago) and the 26th largest in the world, according to organizers.
The event featured processions from the Bolingbrook Police and Fire departments, Irish dancers, bagpipe players and drummers, musical performances and raffle drawings.
Of course, there were more than 350 head shavings, a St. Baldrick's tradition representing a special bond with children diagnosed with cancer.
Additionally, 12 children battling cancer were honored throughout the day and their stories were shared.
Sgt. Sullivan is in his eighth year organizing Bolingbrook 4 Kids, and he says he is always inspired by the community support for St. Baldrick's Bolingbrook.
"It was great to see so many smiling faces and shaved heads," Sgt. Sullivan said. "This is always my favorite holiday of the year. There are so many people who are united by this amazing cause."
The police seargent says his parents were always involved in charitable organizations, motivating him to take an active role in the Bolingbrook community. He was the supervisor of Bolingbrook Police Department's Benevolent Society prior to spearheading St. Baldrick's Bolingbrook.
The local St. Baldrick's chapter launched when Sgt. Sullivan was approached by friends who encouraged him to join the Naperville sect. Initially, he envisioned his soon-to-be shaved head as the punchline to a joke from his friends.
"I thought they approached me because of my Irish heritage," Sullivan said, laughing. "But, once I met some of the parents, those whose children are diagnosed by cancer, I was touched. Talking to them, listening to their stories, I was so moved and inspired."
The first Bolingbrook 4 Kids event was held a year later at the Holiday Inn, drawing 700 attendees. Since then, it has grown so much that the Bolingbrook Golf Club is the only venue that can house the 2,000-plus attendees; even then, this year's event had to be spit in two in order to accommodate the crowd.
"Bolingbrook 4 Kids requires thousands of hours of preparation and planning," Sullivan said. "I could not do it without my fellow organizers, our amazing hosts and the Bolingbrook Golf Club, the hundreds of volunteers and all the attendees. It is a truly wonderful celebration."
The other St. Baldrick's Bolingbrook organizers include Promenade Bolingbrook Director of Marketing Kristine Kuchlar, Bolingbrook Police Department Sgt. Rich Hilliard, substitute teacher Melissa Hilliard and Romeoville Police Department 911 Director Kimberly Knutsen.