Assemblyman Danielsen Top Fundraiser In St. Baldrick’s Drive

State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen gets his head shaved by his daughter, Ava, while Dr. Richard Drachtman looks on, during the annual St. Baldrick’s Day event at the North Plainfield Fire Department.

State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) figures that he’s collected about $100,000 in the 10 years he’s been a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds research into childhood cancer.

And although he says that helping kids get a second chance is “the most righteous thing” he’s ever done, this year his fundraising efforts had extra motivation.

Danielsen’s 16-year-old daughter, Ava, was diagnosed in August 2016 with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the body’s immune system, after seeing a doctor for what was originally thought to be pneumonia.

She’s been through chemotherapy, and is awaiting the results of further tests.

Danielsen this year raised more than $29,000 for the foundation, as part of a campaign that has been sponsored for the last 14 years by the North Plainfield Fire Department. And for the second consecutive year, Danielsen was the top money raiser in the campaign.

But raising money is only part of it; participants in the North Plainfield FD campaign also gather at the fire house the first Saturday after St. Patrick’s Day to do something they feel bonds them with the children fighting cancer: they get their heads shaved.

Ava – whose hair is starting to grow back after she lost it during the chemotherapy treatment – Danielsen’s wife Christine and their son Joey, were on hand March 18 at the fire house for the collection of donations and head shaving.

And it was Ava who took the first few swipes at her father’s hair on his way to baldness.

Ava’s 13-year-old sister, Jenna, earlier this year surprised her family by shaving her head to show support for her sister’s battle.

Volunteers from area hair salons were on hand, armed with their electric razors, to work at the five stations set up for the head shaving. Danielsen was joined in the shorning by his son, Joey, and Joey’s friend, Daniel Straub.

The elder Danielsen captained a team of Franklin Township firefighters who raised money for the foundation. Other team members included: Lou Pomgrantz, Jeff Santora, Louis Hajdu-Nemeth and Pat Shimala.

Danielsen said he has been motivated for the last decade by the work done by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“One of the most righteous things I’ve ever done in my life is to help children have a second chance at living, and St. Baldrick’s does just that for children with cancer,” he said. “In almost every community in our country, there’s a grant given by St. Baldrick’s.”

North Plainfield Fire Department Capt. Robert Beattie, the event’s organizer, said the campaign has raised “just shy of $1 million” in its 14 years of existence.

“This year we’re almost at $65,000 so far,” he said. “That number will continue to rise during the next week and month as more donations come in.”

“Everybody here who’s having their head shaved has raised some amount of money, as little as $50 to a guy like Joe Danielsen who’s over $25,000 by himself,” he said. Danielsen had not yet given Beattie extra checks, which boosted his total raised.

Beattie said there were about 76 people who had signed up to have their heads shaved.

The event was produced by North Plainfield International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2958-2983, Beattie said.

“Anything that has to be bought comes out of our pockets or the union coffers,” he said. “Everything we make from the event goes to the foundation.”

2017 St. Baldrick's Day Head-Shaving


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