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November 23, 2014

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Ice Ice Billy

A simple invitation from St. Baldrick’s

When one searches for St. Baldrick's on line, an invitation appears with the search result; "Help Kids with Cancer | Cure Childhood Cancers." It's a simple invitation. It's as straightforward as a reality that confronts a family that has been sucker-punched by a word.

Cancer.

And it's a word that when preceded with "pediatric" or "childhood" sends an epee blade from the gut up the spine and to someplace behind one's eyes, the ears grow hot and all you want to do is sit down, or crouch, or worse.

Dear universe, please do not harm our children.

This is a hard invitation to ignore, and this overture puts all who accept it in the joyful position of simply participating.

On Sunday, the Las Vegas Wranglers wore specialty St. Baldrick's jerseys that were auctioned for the cause. And while this is the unique way the team accepted the invitation, the emotional bit of the effort only began as several Wranglers players, front office staffers and even fans took to the ice to have their heads shaved during and after the game.

The team's involvement is the result of a 10-year relationship with Brian and Lynn McMullan, purveyors of the perfect pint at McMullan's Irish Pub, and owners of the most charming accents in the Las Vegas Valley. They, as all people who lead such wonderful causes, have a personal story that inspires anyone who will listen.

But it's a story that's not mine to tell, and so with humility, I won't tell it.

The Wranglers on Sunday were able to help raise about $30,000 for the cause, which doubled the team's 2011 effort. Individual players, staff and fans began selling their hair weeks ago, and on Sunday afternoon the clippers were plugged in and the glorious buzz began.

It is not my point to pat the team on its back for anything that may have been accomplished on Sunday. Rather, I cite the amount of $30,000 in an effort to show the modest yet proud result of the effort, and to put into perspective something that is far more grand, and far more human.

According to organizers, this year's McMullan's event will have raised over $300,000 from a variety of individuals and groups, including "Bald by Design" (the American Group of Architects) raising over $63,000 and the obviously associated "Cirque du SoBald" also posting big numbers.

Put the Wranglers $30,000 up against these efforts - much less the skyscraper that is the incredible Andre Agassi Foundation, for example - and the team sits in a happy, modest home by simply being invited.

The McMullans were on hand Sunday, appreciative for everything, no matter how modest the result. As always, they were warm in their commitment and drive. And all of this unimpeachable modesty on this day came just hours after operating an Irish Pub on St. Patrick's Day, in Las Vegas.

The dollars were one cause of a heart beating a little stronger on Monday. But it's the feeling one get as they watch hockey jersey-wearing Las Vegas locals seizing on one chance to raise $700 so that Wranglers player Channing Boe would part with what must have been a 12-month-old follicle project. Because of these fans, you could see a community become just a little bit stronger at the most local of levels. It's a scene made possible by a hand-me-down invitation that was accepted by many just waiting to be asked.

Sometimes, it's just that simple.

There are those who take their turn sounding the trumpet. But there are those who do the work and fight, such Wranglers players and fans on Sunday. Then there are the indefatigable leaders.

After the event, and over a pint or five at McMullan's Irish Pub, an exhausted and still working Brian McMullan stopped by to say hello. In a charming accent and with eyes of commitment, McMullan continued his invitation.

"We never ask anyone to do anything they are not comfortable with," Brian McMullan said, referring, perhaps, to anyone's own unwillingness to discover whatever unfortunately-shaped birthmark may exist beneath their own hair, or that the hair may not come back the same color, if at all.

McMullan's comment said it all, with simple grace and gratitude to something or someone who may not have been there at the time. Sometimes it is what is said. But, sometimes it's how it's said.

And I'm not referring to the accent.

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