(Updated February 2014)
By Bill Hogan
In 2007, the morning after the first NetApp St. Baldrick’s event in NYC, my then 9-year-old son Liam burst into tears and heartfelt pleas about staying home from school that day. My wife and I were prepared for just this situation. We both knew that the night before had been magical and inspiring, but the prospect of going to school with a freshly shaved head was, this morning, more reality than Liam was prepared to accept. Liam was afraid he might be teased at school, and this was casting a heavy burden on this little man. I sat down with him and we talked about how lucky we both were that shaving our heads was an option for us, not a given due to illness and treatment. And I told my son how proud I was of his commitment to fighting childhood cancer. Liam pulled it together and stood a little taller that day as he walked out the door on his way to school.
Seven-years later, NetApp is still committed to raising funds for the charity St. Baldrick’s, and 2013 was successful beyond all imagination. Twenty-eight NetApp events, over 650 shavees, and $1,400,000 raised and donated towards finding a cure for cancer.
How St. Baldrick’s Started
In the fall of 2005, Tom Mendoza and I hosted a CIO dinner at Tira Signo on Bleeker Street in NYC. John Lacava, now COO of QBE joined us along with 10 or so senior execs for an intimate dinner and great dialogue.
As dinner concluded and the topics of the evening had been thoroughly bandied about, I turned to John and asked him to give the background for his freshly sheared dome. John filled us in on how four years earlier he and three friends were having a business lunch and started a silly bet about shaving their heads for really no good reason. This silly discussion took a sudden turn when one of the execs threw out the challenge—raise money, shave heads, and donate funds to the fight against childhood cancer. In minutes, all bets were off and all execs were in for the fund-raising challenge. They decided that day to stand in solidarity with kids who lost their hair while going through treatment.
What has happened from there has been magical. Not only did they stand in solidarity, but they became walking billboards for the fight to find a cure. They raised over $100,000 their first year, surpassed that the next two years, saw people rally around their efforts and inspire shaving parties all over NYC and then other cities.
By the time John was telling us this tale at the Tira Signo dinner, they had raised 17 million dollars and incorporated St. Baldrick’s.
How NetApp Got Involved
John Lacava had NetApp executive Joey Santamorena at hello and the attention quickly turned to me. I obliged the taunt and stated that shaving my head would be something I would do, but it was going to have to be bigger than just the few of us at the table participating before I would agree. “Bill and Joey’s Excellent Shaving Adventure” was born that night, coming to fruition just a few months after we learned about St. Baldrick’s.
Rob Salmon and Eric Mann Step Up to Get Shaved
Eric Mann,Sr. VP of Americas Sales, and EVP Rob Salmon both attended the first “Excellent Shaving Adventure” event in NYC. Neither intended to shave, but both left without a hair on their head. Eric raised 25k on the spot, and with his wife’s blessing took a chair with the barbers. And Rob, after sharing an emotional story about a friend who was losing the battle with cancer, committed 10k, grabbed the clippers, and started shaving his own head.
Joey Santamorena and I were the last shavees at that first event and after a long and emotional evening we mugged for a photo—arm-in-arm with Rob and Eric, and the other shavees. We raised over $100,000 that night and something extraordinary started at NetApp.
Six Years of Celebrities, Fun, and Inspiration
The NetApp St. Baldrick’s events are now a global affair. In total, NetApp has hosted more than 100 shaving events worldwide. Often the shaving parties include a celebrity appearance. Justin Tuck, of the NY Giants has been at the past few NYC events shaving heads and adding to the general excitement. Chicago hosted Justin’s former teammates at Notre Dame, Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays. The 2013 Boston event included Patriots players including Rob Gronkowski and cheerleaders from the Celtics And I heard that Josh Stamer, former linebacker, has stopped by past event(s) at RTP.*
The celebrities, the party atmosphere, the fun had by all at each event keeps the mood light, but as you can imagine, as each head is shaved and each story told, the emotions run high. Childhood cancer is an insidious disease that terrifies the parent in all of us. As each grown up takes his or her place in the chairs and offers their hair to the barbers, we’re all reminded of the blessings in our own lives. It’s inspirational, really. But nothing can describe what it’s like to see a child, nervous and unsure, walk to the stage and accept the signature green cape, offering their own locks to stand in solidarity with all the children living with the horrible burden of a terminal illness. It’s the kids we’re doing this for, and the kids who really inspire each of us to get involved in funding the search for a cure.
NetApp’s Support Makes it all Possible
NetApp’s commitment to supporting the charitable work of its employees is surely a driving factor behind the success of the St. Baldrick’s events hosted by individual NetApp offices across the world. There are many charities that NetApp employees support, and much of the workforce takes advantage of Volunteer Days Off by giving time to various local organizations. St. Baldrick’s is just one of many opportunities we have to give back and get involved.
I wish I had the space to call out every person who has made a difference through their participation, at any level, with St. Baldrick’s. NetApp employees, leaders, customers, partners, families and friends, all standing together on behalf of kids battling this terrible disease. Seven years later we stand at thousands of shavees and volunteers and more than $4,800,000 donated. Thank you to you all!