Gatto goes bald again for a good cause

Cancer-surviving legislator shaves his head for charity

Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2006

State Rep. Carl Gatto knows a thing or two about being bald.

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Seven years ago, the Palmer Republican was diagnosed with prostate cancer. During that time he spent several months hairless after undergoing treatment. On Friday, he went bald for a good cause.

Downtown Juneau's Hangar on the Wharf hosted a children's cancer research fundraiser known as St. Baldrick's, a national event that invites men and women to go under the razor to bring in donations. The event, which began at one New York City location in 2000, raised about $5.3 million for research last year.

Gatto and three legislative aides - dubbing themselves as the "Bipartisan Hairless Caucus" - collected donations from their peers and became "shavees."

"Some people gave $10. Some gave $250," said Gatto, adding that he wanted to raise almost $3,000.

Gatto gave his fellow lawmakers the directive: "Cut your hair or donate." They did the latter, he said.

Going without hair isn't easy, which is why people chose to donate money instead, Gatto said. His sparse, short black locks aren't many in number, but still a blessing to have after surviving cancer, Gatto said.

Being bald as an older man can even be cute or charming, but traumatic for a child with cancer, Gatto said

"It's painful for the parents, too," he said.

Hair starts to grow back within days after shaving one's head with a razor. With cancer it takes months.

"You have no idea how valuable your hair is until it's gone," especially when stepping outside, Gatto said. Having no hair in the winter "feels like taking off your shirt," he added.

Cody Rice, aide to Gatto, said he has prepared to be bald during Juneau's recent cold snap.

"I took out every cold weather hat I have," Rice said, keeping reserves for his office, car and home.

Rice was joined by Joe Balash from the office of Sen. Gene Therriault, R-Fairbanks, and Ron Clarke from the office of Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks. Louis Tagaban, a data processor for the governor's office, also shaved his noggin.

"I was pretty happy to see how many people participated," Rice said.

By concentrating on his friends and family, Rice said he beat his goal to raise $1,000 and instead hit $1,500.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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