20 Aug 2014
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Bears’ Garza Shaves Head for Highwood Child

Highwood Great Pumpkin Festival falls short of record but wins big fighting childhood cancer.

Highwood’s fourth annual Great Pumpkin Festival fell short of setting a record for the most people carving pumpkins at once today but came up big fighting childhood cancer thanks in part to Chicago Bears’ center Roberto Garza.

Garza teamed up with St. Baldrick’s Foundation to have his head shaved right after the attempt to set the record fell short to help raise awareness of childhood cancer in honor of Sam Sommer, 7, of Highwood. Sam was diagnosed with leukemia over a year ago and is now in remission, according to his father, Michael Sommer.

St. Baldrick’s is the largest source of funding for research for childhood cancer outside of the United States government, according to local organization representative Heather Kash. “We are known for our head shaving events,” she said.

Sam is an official St. Baldrick’s child and money is raised in his honor including everything collected as a result of Garza’s participation. “Sam is one of our honored kids,” Kash said. St. Baldrick’s has raised more than $33 million this year.

Michael Sommer was one of two people who shaved Garza’s head. For him the cause has become personal not only because of his son but because of both the prevalence of childhood cancer and the lack of funding to help fight it.

“Childhood cancer is very underfunded,” Sommer said. “Until you are into it yourself you don’t realize how many children have it.”

Just before Michael Sommer began shaving Garza’s head, he got serious about the moment. “Keep Superman Sam (Sommer) in your prayers and go Bears,” Garza said.

The festival continues through Sunday with an attempt Friday to set a record for the most illuminated Jack O'Lanterns at one time. There will also be  5K race at 9 a.m. Sunday to honor Sam Sommer.

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