Shaved heads are all the rage at the Rochester Police Department in New York this week. That’s because the Dream Factory just held its annual Shave with the Brave Fundraiser to help make dreams come true for children who are critically or chronically ill.

Every year participating police officers, firefighters, and EMTs (called “shavees”) take a razor to their heads to solicit donations from family and friends. All funds (averaging $500 per shavee) go to the local Dream Factory chapter. The RPD first became involved in the head-shaving fundraiser in 2003 and has been participating ever since.

This year, the fourth in a row, Rochester’s police officers—the Blue Team—bested the White Team (EMT’s) and Red Team (firefighters) to win the Golden Razor Award. Several “shavees” have been participating since the fundraiser began, including Lieutenant Rob Wilson, who brought in $600 this year, and Sergeant Steve Boily, who raised $1200. Dan Zimmerman who has participated since 2007 brought in $450 this year and Sam Lucyschyn, who raised over $2600 for this year’s event has been a regular shavee for the past 4 years.

The Dream Factory is a national, highly successful, all-volunteer organization that fulfills dreams for children ages 3 to 18 that have been diagnosed with critical and chronic illnesses. It has been awarded a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, America’s leading independent charity evaluator. 90% of funds raised stay with the local chapters. Overhead is low because the chapters rely on volunteers and do not rent office space or hire professional fundraisers. The Dream Factory’s National Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky has just four paid employees.

Area Director Laura Walitsky started the Rochester chapter of the Dream Factory in 1998 and has raised an impressive total of $125,000 coordinating this annual event, with $60,000 coming from the RPD. Their two major fundraisers are Shave with the Brave in June and a golf tournament in July, also supported by the agency. She set a goal of $11,000 for this year’s event and promised to cut her own hair if that goal was reached. When the fundraiser reached its goal, she kept her promise and cut 10 inches (the required amount) off her own hair. Although most hair is thrown away, hers was long enough to be donated to Locks of Love, a charity that provides hair for cancer patients.

The event has evolved over the years. In 2010, the event became competition between three teams: Red (firefighters), White (EMT’s) and Blue (law enforcement). And this year the name was changed from Buzz the Red, White and Blue to Shave with The Brave to recognize not only the BRAVE first responders and the BRAVE people shaving their heads, but also the BRAVE children who live with their critical or chronic diseases every day.

There are many touching stories about children whose dreams have been fulfilled thanks to the Dream Factory. This year five-year-old Olivia Peone, who has been diagnosed with a heart defect, visited Walt Disney World with her family in September. The Peones are one of seven families who have taken trips to Orlando this year, thanks to the Rochester chapter. In April The Dream Factory took Laila, a seven-year old girl with severe kidney disease, on a shopping trip for craft supplies. In June, sixteen-year-old Stephen will be watching a Monster Jam Show and meeting his favorite drivers, and Nicholas will be traveling to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas to swim with the dolphins.

Dreams fall into five categories: 

  • Celebrity Dreams (meetings with performers and other public figures)
  • Fantasy Dreams (becoming a firefighter, police officer, military officer, model, or princess for a day)
  • Shopping Dreams (playhouse, pet, computer, pool, or other gift; weapons and motorized vehicles are excluded)
  • Sports Dreams  (attending a sport-related event and meeting a sports hero
  • Travel Dreams – (theme parks, cruise, another country)

There are no financial guidelines for families, and families do not pay for the dream. The average cost for a dream is $4,500, paid for through donations, in-kind gifts, and fundraisers. Parents or legal guardians and siblings under the age of 21 residing the household may accompany the child on a trip. All gifts are tax-deductible.

The Dream Factory is hoping to encourage other agencies to help make dreams come true for children with critical or chronic illnesses. The Dream Factory of Syracuse is coordinating a Shave with The Brave event on June 15 and Memphis, Tennessee later in the summer.  For more information about coordinating a Dream Factory event or participate in one, contact Area Director Laura Walitsky by calling 585-234-0740 or emailing her at [email protected]. You can learn more about The Dream Factory of Rochester by visiting



Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including Police Talk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at for free report writing resources. Go to for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers. Dr. Reynolds is the police report writing expert for Law Enforcement Today.