ALGONQUIN – Nearly every year since 2009, Algonquin resident Greg Freund has participated in the Shamrock Shave, hosted by St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
This year will be different, however, because money raised by Freund and those on his team will benefit his 14-year-old daughter, Talia Freund, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in July.
“I didn’t realize back in 2009 when I decided to do this, and then [my children] decided to do it with me, that someday it would turn around and be a benefit for us as well as other kids,” Freund said.
Freund’s children, Talia and 13-year-old Owen, had participated in the Shamrock Shave with their father before, and after Talia was diagnosed with the rare bone cancer, the whole family shaved their heads before she started chemotherapy treatments.
“After she realized she was going to lose her hair anyway, she just said, ‘You know what, I’d rather shave it than wait until it starts falling out,’ ” Greg Freund said.
In March, organizations throughout the country hold shaves to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and other local causes. The shaves are meant to raise money for childhood cancer research and show children who have lost their hair because of treatments that others stand proudly with them, according to the foundation’s website.
About 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will have cancer before they turn 20 years old, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s website, and about 4 percent of U.S. federal funding is dedicated to childhood cancer research.
“There’s not enough being dedicated to ensuring that these children have long lives following treatment, or successful treatments in general,” said Tabitha Freeman, Talia’s mother.
Talia visits her father on weekends and in the summer at his Algonquin home, and she lives full time with her brother, mother and stepfather, Joe Freeman, in Mazon.
When Talia was in eighth grade and an active runner, she started experiencing excruciating pain, which doctors at first brushed off as an athletic injury, her mother said. It wasn’t until July that she was officially diagnosed and admitted to Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital.
In December, Talia completed 31 aggressive chemotherapy treatments that were unsuccessful, the family said. Now she will be doing a less intense type of chemotherapy intended to extend her life, and the family is pursuing more holistic treatments often not covered by insurance.
Tabitha Freeman no longer works, as Talia requires 24-hour care and cannot go to school at Seneca Township High School most days.
“Obviously, now things have changed a little bit, and we want to try and enjoy as much as we can with her,” Greg Freund said. “… With the generosity of a lot of people, we’re able to do a lot of things with her.”
In addition to the money being donated to Talia through the Shamrock Shave, Talia and her family also have received support from fundraisers at her high school and through her recent appearance on “Windy City LIVE.”
Although she continues to battle cancer, Talia said she hopes people will treat her like a normal teen.
“If they treat you like a cancer patient, you feel like one,” Talia said. “The people who treat you like normal [are the ones] you’re going to want to be around.”
The ninth annual Shamrock Shave will be at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, 119 S. Hubbard St., Algonquin. To donate to “Team Talia” and other participants, visit saintmargaretmary.org. Donations also can be given through Talia’s GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/2f49un8.
Other St. Baldrick’s events taking place in McHenry County in March and April include:
• At 3 p.m. Thursday, a shave will be held at Nippersink Middle School, 10006 Main St., Richmond. To donate, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/richmondspringgrove2017.
• From 3 to 5 p.m. March 16, Crystal Lake South High School will hold its Shave-a-thon in the cafeteria, 1200 McHenry Ave., Crystal Lake. To donate, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/7983/2017.
• From 5 to 8 p.m. March 16, a shave will be held at the McHenry High School West Campus, 4724 W. Crystal Lake Road, McHenry. To donate, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/5685/2017.
• From 4 to 7 p.m. March 17, a shave will be held at Huntley High School, 13719 Harmony Road. Another fundraiser will be from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. March 18 at Parkside Pub, 11721 Main St., Huntley. To donate, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/11656/2017.
• At 1 p.m. March 24, a shave will be held at Bernotas Middle School, 170 N. Oak St., Crystal Lake. To donate, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/12354/2017.
• From 5 to 8 p.m. April 6, Cary-Grove High School also will hold a shave event in the lower gym, 2208 Three Oaks Road, Cary. To donate, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/12941/2017.