by Stephen Dafoe
Above: Hair Massacure supporters meet with UofA cancer researchers Jan. 7. – Submitted Photo
Below: Kali Bear entertains students at a Hair Massacure presentation in this Morinville News file photo. The annual charity event kicks off its 15th year Jan. 23.
by Stephen Dafoe
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. She finishes school at Morinville Community High School this month, works at the Morinville Sobeys, and spends time 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, now in its 15th year, 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 14 years, the Hair Massacure has raised more than $11 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 takes place in Edmonton Jan. 23, and the head shave will happen Feb. 24, a little later than in previous years. Typically some 50,000 people pass through the mass shaving at the Ice Palace.
Putting the money to use
Hair Massacure spokesperson and Kali MacDonald’s mother, Tammy MacDonald, had the opportunity to tour some people through the labs where Hair Massacure money is put to use in the research of child cancers at the University of Alberta’s Department of Medicine.
MacDonald said a group of longstanding Hair Massacure supporters had the chance to see and understand where 50 per cent of the charity’s funds go.
“It was four hours of crash course, hands-on learning about paediatric cancer research that left every one of us in awe with a greater appreciation for the phenomenal work that they have all committed their entire careers to,” MacDonald said. “These researchers work very hard for their funding and have obviously chosen their fields because their hearts are in it.”
MacDonald said of the government funding available for cancer research, paediatric cancer research receives only three per cent of the total. Researchers use the Hair Massacure funding to apply for other matching dollar grants.
Revitalizing event at home
But for researchers to make that money work, the organization needs to raise it through their annual Hair Massacure event.
Though the event continues to grow year over year throughout the province, MacDonald said it has become less active in recent years in Morinville, where it all started.
To encourage students and schools to get involved with pinking their hair and raising funds for the cause, 103.9 CISN Country has arranged for Country singer Dean Brody to do a concert at the school that raises the most this year.
MacDonald said she would be in contact with local schools and Morinville Sobeys, who raised a large amount of money last year selling Kali Pink hair colouring and Kali Bears.
“They were phenomenal,” she said. “They sold 500 Kali Bears in one day and asked for more.”
She’d like to see more area schools taking part in the event. At one time, multiple Morinville schools and those in Gibbons and Bon Accord took part.
“This is our 15th anniversary year. It’s a big year, and Kali will be 18 now, so she will be out of school at a time when she can come to some of the presentations with me,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald is hoping local schools will become involved this year and said her experience and the experience of teachers involved in the past is that it raises the excitement level in a school.
“Hair Massacure is a fun event. It’s where a kid can go crazy and colour their hair, but they also get to do something for someone’s betterment. The shy kids slip out of their shells – you have to with pink hair. The morale of the school rises. It is really good awareness, and the kids leave the event with a feeling of accomplishment, and they feel empowered.”
MacDonald said children raise 50 per cent of the monies raised each year. “It’s impressive. Some of them are knocking on doors with mittens on,” MacDonald said. “They’re working hard, and they have a passion inside of them.”
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 last year’s tally was a bit down, MacDonald is optimistically hoping for $1.2 million this year despite the current economic client.
Schools, businesses, and individuals wishing to participate in the event can call Tammy MacDonald at 780-695-7886 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For online information on the event and how you can help, visit www.hairmassacure.com.