By Rod Lee
The motto “Don’t Tread on Me” having fallen into relative disuse, it was surprising to see it emblazoned on a plaque attached to a wall of Erich’s Cutting Edge Barbershop on Main St. in Oxford on August 8.
Some of those familiar with the phrase may also know that it harks to the days of the first Marines enlisting in Philadelphia; that they carried drums painted yellow with a coiled rattlesnake on them and that the sentiment expressed in the words became the symbolism subsequently evoked in “the Gadsden flag”—and the battle cry of those deliverers of the message that America was not going to be pushed around by potential adversaries.
“Don’t Tread on Me” must mean something else as well these days to Dennis and Donna Dion, who are actively engaged in the widespread effort to defy the ravages of a dreaded disease. Their “Community Buzz Off” for kids with cancer, held July 22nd at the Oxford Senior Center, raised $5000 to benefit the Mission One organization and the medical personnel at Children’s Hospital in Boston who play such a leading role in the fight.The couple was still in a state of euphoria on a Wednesday afternoon several weeks after the conclusion of the event, in talking about how a goal of $3500 “starting out” had been far surpassed thanks to the helping hand offered by a number of local businesses. Most of these businesses are familiar names to residents of Oxford and the surrounding area. They are now dear to the hearts of the Dion’s.
“Suzie Sunshine” twisted balloons for the children that day. Paul Lester—“Mr. Flattop” of The Barber’s Nook—and Megan Rojan of Monroe’s Salon helped Ms. Dion perform twenty-five haircuts. Natasha Torres of the Garden of Eden Spa painted nails. Sisters and schoolmates Elizabeth and Hannah Schoemer ran the games. IPG (Oxford’s largest employer) donated a whopping five hundred dollars. Oxford Access filmed the event. D.J. Entertainment—“Ken Duquette’s Champagne Toast”—donated its time (“they were unbelievable,” Mr. Dion said of the DJ’s). Raffle items were contributed including a TV and tickets to see ZZ Top. “People were stopping in and dropping money in the donation basket,” Ms. Dion said. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the town.”
This was “my first time ever doing it,” Ms. Dion said. “We had people lined up and then they backed out and I had five weeks to throw it together.”
She had participated in a similar Buzz Off at Gillette Stadium in June (the ninth edition). Twenty-two barbers did seven hundred haircuts in four hours. “I was so impressed with that. I wanted to give back more. I was blown away.”
“Lunch with Gronk” was part of the appeal of joining that cause “but we didn’t do it because of that,” Ms. Dion said. “Four thousand people showed up. I was two seats away from [Rob Gronkowski].”
Gronk, Mr. Dion said, “brought in a kid who he had under his arm, like he was carrying a football!” When Gronk, leaving, missed exchanging a greeting with one child, Ms. Dion said something and Gronk, ever the attentive good guy, came back to make sure the kid got the attention he deserved.
Dennis and Donna Dion are already thinking ahead to an encore presentation of their Community Buzz Off in 2019 except, Mr. Dion said, “we might start earlier, before the Gillette Stadium, maybe in May.”