Above: Kali MacDonald (left) with mother Tammy and sister Krysti pose for the Hair Massacure campaign in this submitted photo.
by Stephen Dafoe – firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been many years since a local family worried endlessly whether their daughter was going to make it or not. Today that young woman, Kali MacDonald, has a busy life attending Morinville Community High School, working at the Morinville Sobeys, and singing with her sister as one-half of the MacKs. But as she goes about an active daily life, she remains the starting point for a charitable cause that has raised millions of dollars for cancer research and benefited Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta and Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The movement is born
In 2000, Kali MacDonald was two and not well. Her parents thought she had the flu, but the child was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia. The parents learned she would undergo three years of chemo every day and a survival chance of one in three. The two-year-old had 130 hospital stays, half of those at the Cross Cancer Institute. The child had so many blood transfusions her father Gord became a spokesperson for Canadian Blood Services. Kali MacDonald was released from the hospital at the age of five and considered a survivor in 2005.
The annual Hair Massacure event began in Cardiff and Morinville in the fall of 2002. Kali MacDonald was still undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the time. In her third year of treatment, Kali had another bought of hair loss, which the family was not expecting. Kali’s father Gord wanted to do something and took the idea of a head shave to Canada Post where he worked at the time.
In its first year, 42 people had their heads shaved, raising $37,000 for the Kids with Cancer Society. Over the past 13 years, the Hair Massacure has raised more than $10 million. Today the event involves people pinking their hair, raising funds for the cause, and shaving their heads in a mass head shave event at the West Edmonton Mall’s Ice Palace. This year’s pinking took place Jan. 25, and the head shave takes place Feb. 24, a little later than in previous years. Typically some 50,000 people pass through the mass shaving at the Ice Palace.
Revitalizing event at home
Throughout the event’s decade-plus history, Hair Massacure co-founder Tammy MacDonald, Kali’s mom, has played a major role in growing and running the event. MacDonald largely retired from the Hair Massacure’s operations side for a year but is now more active in the cause once again. Part of her return is trying to raise once again awareness in the community where it all began, and where she and her children still call home.
“It’s died off here, but the event itself is growing,” MacDonald said of the response to the initiative from Morinville and area. “I feel it can come back, though.”
To reinvigorate the campaign in the area, MacDonald has been in contact with Morinville Community High School, who are planning an event, Morinville Sobeys, who will be holding a fundraising BBQ Feb. 7 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and local schools to get students involved in the annual fundraiser.
MacDonald is hoping the local grocer will help by making Kali Bears, the paper representations of the pink teddy bear that accompanies the campaign, available to shoppers for a donation to the Hair Massacure.
While acknowledging the campaign has overlooked Morinville and neighbouring communities in the past few years, she is hoping to remind long-term residents and inform newcomers of the importance of the work being done through the annual event.
“The people who have moved to Morinville since it’s kind of fizzled – we want them to understand the family still lives here and that the inspiration is still attending school,” MacDonald said. “It’s important that the community rallies around each other. There is always a certain amount of pride when there is a significant member of the community that people understand and know about it.
Keeping the story alive
MacDonald said she is concerned that as the charity grows, the story behind the campaign fades.
“The story behind Hair Massacure is starting to get watered down. I’m concerned about that,” she said. “Since the charities took over, it’s expanding in new areas. Their focus is not on that small event that started. It’s kind of like the Terry Fox run. If people don’t know who Terry Fox is, they’re not going to join in the run. That doesn’t mean that Kali is the end all be all. It has to start with a story. Within that one story are many little stories. We have many stories in this area to add to that story. We have many many children at the Stollery.”
Having done many presentations to schools, MacDonald knows too well that cancer touches many people.
“Every school I go into I ask if they know a child under 16 with cancer, and they all [do]. It’s sad,” she said.
Looking to raise more
Proceeds from this year’s event will once again be divided equally between Make-A-Wish Northern Alberta and Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. Though the goal is set at $1.2 million again this year, MacDonald is optimistically hoping for $1.5 million despite the current economic client.
“I don’t know how realistically that is with the economy the way it is, but if we increase our awareness and participation level, we could easily achieve that,” she said, adding she is hoping to raise $25,000 in donations for the cause locally. “When we moved to Cardiff, neither of us could work because our daughter was critical. The community had rallied around us. We had donations pouring in to keep us afloat. That really showed us the community support.
In the early days of the campaign support for the cause was strong from Morinville, Gibbons, Bon Accord, Edmonton Garrison and local and area schools.
“It did start here. The movement started here,” MacDonald said, adding those who wish to join the pinking can purchase Kali Pink hair dye at Morinville Sobeys.
For more iformation on the event and how you can help, visit www.hairmassacure.com.