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H-F paraprofessional: It’s time to pony up for St. Baldrick’s

GinCasparaprofessional Homewood-Flossmoor High School hopes raise $5000 by having her head shaved H-F's fifth annual St. Baldrick's charity event March

Gina Casto, a paraprofessional at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, hopes to raise $5,000 by having her head shaved at H-F's fifth annual St. Baldrick's charity event March 1. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 24, 2014 1:11PM



Gina Casto is going to lose her pigtails for a good cause.

The Homewood native, 42, said she has had long hair “all her life,” but that will change when Casto, a paraprofessional in the Vocational Achievement for Successful Transition Program at Homewood-Flossmoor High School — and a 14-year employee in the district — has her head shaved March 1 for H-F’s St. Baldrick’s event.

Casto said she made the decision to raise $5,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity that raises funds to support research to end childhood cancers, when H-F first became involved in the fundraiser five years ago.

Casto has been calling attention to her intentions since August, when she began putting her long, dark hair in high pigtails every school day, often topping them off with ribbons of red and white — H-F’s school colors.

She’s also using Facebook and an email blast to H-F staff to get the word out.

Her tactics are working.

Casto said her first H-F donation came in within a matter of days of her first email blast, and then the staff quips and comments followed.

“I’m hearing people saying, ‘Oh, you’re cutting the ponytails off,’ ” she said.

Casto said her head-shaving sacrifice for cancer research will be “different and shocking,” but she’s not dwelling on that. She’s thinking about contributing to H-F’s $35,000 goal for the charity.

“I’m school-related,” Casto said. “It’s a school function, and I want to give that money to the research team from H-F.”

David Kush, the H-F St. Baldrick’s event coordinator, department chair of assessment and National Honor Society sponsor, said, “Gina’s passion and ambition are really inspiring, and that’s the foundation for the success of events like St. Baldrick’s. Plus, there’s no better way to teach social responsibility to our students than the personal example we set.”

The St. Baldrick’s event is not the first for which Casto has led by example.

Casto and her sisters, Renee Thieman, of Frankfort; Rhonda Vandenberg, of Frankfort; and Robin McElligott, of Dyer, Ind., have twice in recent years raised funds by participating in the two-day, 35-mile Avon Breast Cancer Walk in honor of their cousins who are fighting breast cancer.

The charity Casto has been most involved in to date hits even closer to home.

“I’ve been on the lupus committee. This will be my sixth year,” Casto said.

Casto was inspired by her parents, Homewood residents Michael and Judi Rangel, who have lived with Michael Rangel’s lupus diagnosis since 1978.

Casto said her father’s ability to “keep everybody happy” despite the loss of both legs to the disease and her mother’s “people-pleasing personality” inspired her to become actively involved in fundraising for the Lupus Foundation of America by helping to coordinate the local lupus walk.

Casto and her husband David, Frankfort residents for eight years, said neither of them dwells on her imminent hair loss.

“He just hopes I reach my goal,” Casto said. “He knows how I am and he knows I’m going to ‘git ’er done.’ ”

The H-F St. Baldrick’s event is open to all participants and is to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 1 at James Hart Junior High School, 18205 Aberdeen St., Homewood.

To become a participant or volunteer, visit www.stbaldricks.org/login/participate/2362/2014/

To donate to in Casto’s name, visit www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/662458/2014.

The H-F Twitter handle is “@HFstbaldricks.”



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