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Cops Grow Facial Hair to Raise Cancer Awareness 

Wildwood Crest Police Officer Ryan Tassone is letting his beard grow to bring awareness to cancer. The money that would be used for shaving is donated to a local person

By Karen Knight

COURT HOUSE – All beards are not created equal, but that hasn’t deterred police officers across the county from participating in No-Shave November (https://no-shave.org/) and donating to a local family who is fighting a personal battle with cancer. 
No-Shave November is a month-long journey during which participants forgo shaving and grooming in order to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness. Although No-Shave November has been a tradition for many years, in 2009, a Chicago-based family decided to re-invent the activity to raise money for charity.
The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing one’s hair, something many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free. Participants donate the money typically spent on shaving and grooming to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.
Across Cape May County, several departments have designated Amy Baker of Lower Township to receive their donations, while others have designated other causes. 
Baker, 44, is fighting an inoperable brain tumor located within the lower mid-section of her cerebrum on top of the brainstem. A mother of two, she continues to undergo treatment, including brain scans every two months, chemotherapy and other medication. She works for the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office.
“One of our officers brought the idea of designating Amy during this activity, honoring her and showing support for what she is going through,” said Antwan McClellan, confidential assistant to the sheriff. “When I brought it to the sheriff’s attention, he said, ‘Why wait? Let’s start now. So we started in September and will go til January.”
Each officer participating is donating at least $50 a month.
McClellan said, “Even if they are not growing a beard, people are participating and donating. All beards are not created equal. But we want to raise awareness of cancer, celebrate Amy and do whatever we can to support cancer patients.”
“Amy does a great job and we wanted to show her how important she has been to us,” he said.
Baker has worked for the Sheriff’s Department for nearly three years. 
In addition to not shaving, coworker Mary Beth Brown designed a T-shirt, which was sold with proceeds going to the Baker family, McClellan said. The purple top says, “Team Amy” on the front, and the back reads, “On this team, no one fights alone.”
Baker is the wife of Jason Baker, 39, a state trooper who grew up in the area, went to school with many of the area officers, worked on calls with them, and knows them.
“We have a huge support system and friends, and the support we are receiving is unreal,” he said. “Work for both of us has accomodated us over the moon and our co-workers and neighbors, everyone has been so helpful. It’s really been overwhelming to see all this support for us.”
He said Amy grew up in Cumberland County and “fell in love” with Cape May County when the couple started dating. He added that their decision to live in Cape May County was “one of the best we made.”
“This is a small town who truly takes care of its own,” Jason said. “We are so grateful and flabbergasted by all the support; it’s truly an amazing feeling. It helps make a difficult situation a little easier.”
Jason said his wife’s radiation and chemotherapy treatments “so far, have not caused her to lose her hair, but if it does, it does.”
Lower Township, Wildwood Crest and the Cape May Police Departments are also participating in No-Shave November and donating to the Bakers.   
“Amy would do anything for anyone, as she is a free-spirted person, great friend, caring mother, and loving wife,” said Lower Township Police Chief Kevin Lewis in a post on Facebook announcing the department’s activity. “She has been a dedicated law enforcement support staff member most of her adult life, serving many Police Departments, Courts and now our Cape May County Sheriff’s Office.  The Bakers are local to the Cape May area, where they proudly call home.”
All proceeds from the LTPD’s participation in No-Shave November will be donated to the family of Amy Baker and another Lower Township resident, who wants to remain anonymous.  This initiative will help contribute to their medical bills, treatment costs, and travel expenses.
Cape May Police Chief Dekon Fashaw Sr. has been best friends for nearly 20 years with Jason Baker, and for him, helping the Bakers was a natural thing. 
“Amy is just a beautiful person,” Fashaw said, “and helping them with travel expenses for when they have to get Amy’s treatments, hotels and other costs, and helping them be able to look after their young son, is the right thing to do. They are a humble family, and would help another family going through the same thing. 
“We’ve been participating in No-Shave November for years, always benefitting some one in the community,” the chief said. 
Anyone wishing to donate may contact their local police department about where to send donations. All donations will be provided to the benefitting families the second week of December collectively.  

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