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A West Hartford teenager’s effort to raise $10,000 for children’s cancer research a few months ago morphed into something much bigger on Tuesday — about a half a million dollars bigger — after his father, brother, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation got behind his effort.

The teenager, 15-year-old Avon Old Farms student Porter Dowling, said he had hoped to get five people to agree to shave their heads for donations to cancer research in the name of 12-year-old cancer survivor Joey Chamness of Washington, D.C.

But Porter’s father, V.J. Dowling, of the stock brokerage firm Dowling & Partners, and his brother, Vincent, a 19-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth College, helped him set their sights higher. With the help of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation they organized Tuesday’s event, drawing a veritable who’s-who list of Hartford lobbyists, insurers, educators, and others to The Society Room on Pratt Street in Hartford.

St. Baldrick’s describes itself as the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer. The groups says that in its nine years it has shaved more than 72,000 heads at events in 18 countries and 48 U.S. states, raising more than $50 million.

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According to the foundation, a goal of $250,000 had been set for Tuesday’s event. But today the foundation’s Web site reported that $455,168 had been raised as 37 volunteers got their heads shaved with a backdrop of Irish music and good cheer.

Porter said an anonymous donor covered the cost of the event, and so all of the proceeds were to be donated to children’s cancer research. The barbers and hairstylists all donated their time.

“I just wanted five shaves,” Porter said on Tuesday after he’d told his story to the crowd of about 250. “I didn’t think this would happen.”

Doug Hardy photos
Doug Hardy photo
Doug Hardy photo